Expert meeting at the ILO, Geneva, 26-27 April 2016

Opening pathways into "unusual" employment for persons with disabilities

An expert meeting hosted by the ILO discussed opportunities for waged employment for persons with disabilities, with an emphasis on developing countries. Participants were experts and practitioners with representation from UN organizations, governments, international NGOs, and businesses.

News | 18 May 2016
The meeting drew attention to successful examples of employment of persons with disabilities in a wide range of contexts, ranging from multi-national companies to large technology production lines, such as Jabil in Guangzhou, China, or the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh. These examples showed the relevance of employment of persons with disabilities to the private sector in very different national, social and economic situations.

Alongside these examples of employment, job-matching services were showcased, such as the Malaysian Return to Work programme, and efforts supported by International NGOs. A global survey of these services shows largely similar challenges and solutions in different countries, but significant differences in policies and institutions supporting them. The challenge for the future is how to go from services to systems supporting employment of persons with disabilities more widely.

Increasing employability of persons with disabilities needs to be done in terms of both technical professional skills as well as other competencies needed for work, including foundational education and soft skills. Particular challenges in implementation include outreach to make disabled people aware of existing and new services, and in ensuring that services increasing employability are gender sensitive.

Linking persons with disabilities and employers in different contexts has several mechanisms in common. One is that services tend to be user-centered and focus on being responsive to different individual needs, through case management for example. The other is through their wide engagement strategies, with employers and other related stakeholders, such as training institutions and disability organizations.

Fostering inclusive employment has been successful in the case of relatively large employers, and has secured commitments from key companies. Going forward the challenges are about realizing commitments and about reaching through to further employers, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The enabling environment for these activities is made of both the wider situation for social inclusion of persons with disabilities as well as the conditions of the labour market. Here public employment services could offer a key opportunity for mainstreaming disability issues in wider services to reduce barriers to formal employment.

ILO has proposed to co-host a side-event at the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities where it can continue dialogue on these issues. A range of tools and guidelines were proposed in this conference, and ILO will be pursuing in collaboration with participants.