Dying for Employment
Some people want jobs so badly they’re willing to die for them. Literally.
When I have had the opportunity to talk with Deaf or disabled people from developing countries, I usually seize the chance to ask what they think Deaf or disabled people in their country need the most. For a large number of them, the first word out of their mouth (or the first sign on their hands) is: JOBS. In other words, what most Deaf people and people with disabilities want is a way to earn their own living. To put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back, for themselves and their families. All by their own labor. They don’t want handouts or charity. They want JOBS.
Jobs, however, are rather thin on the ground when you have a disability. Even in rich countries, studies have repeatedly found that unemployment rates among people with disabilities are high. Yes, that’s people who CAN work and WANT to work. Although some disabled people genuinely cannot work, many others would love to have a job — if only they had both the right skills and training and also an employer willing to hire them. And if only the social welfare system that made it easier for them to transition to paid employment without worrying about losing their health insurance. Or if they didn’t need to worry about being cut off from benefits if the job doesn’t pay enough or doesn’t work out.
In some developing countries, finding a decent-paying job may be tough even for non-disabled people. For people with disabilities who must overcome stigma, it can be even tougher. Too many employers–in any country–simply assume that a disabled person will not be productive at all. Or they assume that a disabled person can only appropriately work in certain, limited occupations. Or if the current job description requires a person to spend a few minutes of the day on the phone, then instead of looking at ways to trade off job responsibilities with someone else in the office, an employer may assume that a deaf applicant cannot or should not take the job.
Earlier today, I learned via Lady Bracknell’s post at BBC Ouch that a group of 12 men with disabilities in Varanasi, India, were so desperate to retain their one source of livelihood that they drank pesticide as a form of public protest. It seems their shops had been taken from them. When they tried to speak out in protest, they weren’t heard. So they swallowed pesticide. And five of them have died–so far. It remains to be seen whether the other seven will join them.
When people with disabilities are able to work for a living, everyone wins. Disabled people gain more economic control over their lives. Employers gain talented, ambitious, loyal and productive workers. Governments take in more taxes–which can then be used to invest more in education and health clinics for everyone. People shouldn’t have to kill themselves for a job.
See the links above for the information that is known as of now about the situation in India. If anyone knows more detail about this situation, please post your links or information in the comments area.
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