ILO Report Says, Disabled People Deserve Jobs

Posted on 5 December 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Employment, News, Reports, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

ILO report calls for new efforts to support people with disabilities in the world of work

Type Press release
Date issued 03 December 2007
Reference ILO/07/61
Unit responsible Communication and Public Information
Subjects disability benefits, employment accident benefits, disabilities, disabled workers

GENEVA (ILO News) – Despite significant progress in recent years in improving their livelihoods, new efforts are needed to break down barriers that still prevent millions of people with disabilities from working and contributing to the economic growth of their societies, according to a new ILO report released for the International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December.

What’s more, the new report, entitled “The right to decent work of persons with disabilities”, says such significant and sustained efforts are vital, not only to promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in employment, rural development and poverty reduction programmes, but also in moving toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for halving poverty by the year 2015.

The ILO estimates that some 650 million people – or one out of every 10 people in the world – has a disability, and that of these, approximately 470 million are of working age. While many are successfully employed and fully integrated into society, people with disabilities as a group often face disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment.

The good news, according to the report, is that “countries around the world are increasingly recognizing that disabled people represent enormous potential, frequently untapped; that they have a valuable contribution to make to the national economy; that their employment reduces the cost of disability benefits and may reduce poverty; and that concerted action is needed to dismantle the barriers which prevent many disabled people from taking part in the economy and society” (Preface, p. vii).

However, too many barriers remain that stop disabled people from realizing their full potential “There is a strong link between disability and poverty”, the new ILO report says, adding that an estimated 80 per cent of all people with disabilities in the world live in developing countries. Of these, it says some 426 million live below the poverty line and often represent the 15-to-20 per cent most vulnerable and marginalized poor in such countries (Note 1).

“Decent work is the ILO’s primary goal for everyone, including people with disabilities”, says ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “When we promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities, we are empowering individuals, enriching societies and strengthening economies. We must intensify our efforts to step up the pace of change.”

Citing World Bank studies estimating that social exclusion from the workplace costs the global economy between US$ 1.37 to US$ 1.94 trillion in estimated annual loss in GDP (Note 2), the ILO Skills and Employability Department added that “providing decent work for people with disabilities thus makes social as well as economic sense”.

The new ILO report highlights many challenges faced by people with disabilities in the world of work, including: concentration in low-level, low-paid jobs; lack of adequate representation at higher levels; problems of access to workplace areas, transportation and housing; the risk of losing benefits on starting work; and prejudices among co-workers, employers and the general public. It also says people with disabilities in the world of work tend to experience higher unemployment and have lower earnings than persons without disabilities, or are often underemployed.

“This is not to suggest that there has been no improvement”, the ILO report says. “The significant growth in domestic anti-discrimination legislation in recent years is encouraging, even though adoption of a law does not guarantee its enforcement. The persistent efforts of international agencies and in particular the ILO, in promoting equal opportunity and treatment in employment continue to make important inroads into the economic and social exclusion of persons with disabilities.”

The ILO said the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted in December of last year will reinforce national and international efforts and provide a renewed impetus in eliminating discrimination on the basis of disability and in positively promoting inclusion. The principles of the new UN Convention are in line with relevant ILO standards, including Convention No. 159 on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons).

Convention No. 159 has been ratified by 80 countries. It requires that representative organizations of employers and workers, as well as those of disabled persons, be consulted on the implementation of national policy on vocational rehabilitation and employment for disabled people. This theme of consultation with key stakeholders is also emphasized in the new Convention.

Besides anti-discrimination measures by governments, employers and trade unions play an important role in managing disability in the workplace, the report says.

This year’s International Day marks a new effort by the ILO to promote the principle of decent work among people with disabilities. The ILO said it hopes the event would help foster greater understanding of issues affecting people with disabilities in the world of work and help mobilize new support for their rights at work.

The new ILO report can be downloaded for free in PDF format in English (follow the link and scroll down the screen until you see the title, “The right to decent work of persons with disabilities“; 393 Kb). The report will eventually be made available in French (Le droit des personnes handicapees au travail decent), Spanish (El derecho al trabajo decente de las personas con discapacidades), Amharic, Arabic, Bahasa, German, Hindi, Japanese, Kiswahili, Mandarin, Mongolian, Portugese, Russian, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Note 1 – The right to decent work of persons with disabilities, by Arthur O’Reilly. International Labour Office, Geneva, 2007. ISBN 9778-92-2-120144-1. To order a copy, please visit:

Note 2 – Robert L. Metts (2000) Disability Issues, Trends and Recommendations for the World Bank, World Bank Washington..

Most of the text for this blog post is taken from an ILO press release. We Can Do has modified it slightly to add a quote from the report and to link to where you can download the report (when you reach the ILO page, scroll down a little to find the report). I first learned of this report via the “UN News by Email” distribution list.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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UN Secretary General Encourages Employment of Disabled People

Posted on 4 December 2007. Filed under: Employment, Human Rights, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Following is the text of United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December:

This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of decent work for persons with disabilities, and reminds us that every person deserves opportunities for productive employment inconditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.

Persons with disabilities are deprived of adequate employment opportunities in nearly every society. Estimates show that at least half of all disabled people in developed nations, and the vast majority of those with disabilities in developing countries, are unemployed. Most others are underemployed, or will never have full access to the labour market. This situation is deplorable.

Persons with disabilities have the ability to make valuable contributions in the workforce as employees, entrepreneurs and employers. But they face numerous barriers that prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Early in life, they encounter difficulties gaining access to an education or acquisition of employable skills. Later on, fears and prejudices about their abilities deny them the work opportunities available to others. Inaccessible workplaces, explicit and implicit discriminatory legislation and practices, and unfavourable work conditions pose additional hurdles.

Yet, whenever the opportunity arises, persons with disabilities prove their worth as productive members of the workforce. That is why more and more employers are slowly coming to the realization that employing persons with disabilities makes good sense. Changing workplace environments and advances in information and communications technology are also giving persons with disabilities new avenues for seeking decent work.

Most States do not have legislation protecting persons with disabilities in the workplace. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is expected to enter into force early next year, recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities to work and employment on an equal basis with others. It stresses their right to earn a living from freely chosen work, and to work in an environment that is both accessible and accepting.

On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to seeking equal rights for all, and let us pledge to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in the lives of their communities.

The text for this blog post is taken from a press release from the United Nations. The United Nations has a web page on the International Day of Disabled Persons. Also see what the International Labour Organization (ILO) did to celebrate the day and review their resources.

More information about the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is available at the UN Enable web site. Information about a global campaign to ratify the convention is at the RatifyNow web site.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    Ending poverty among and oppression toward disabled people in developing countries.


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