Equal employment opportunities for persons with varied disabilities

More than a quarter century after the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, the employment situation of persons with disabilities in India remains bleak, with only about one-third engaged in productive employment. This suggests that employment and employability in India is more complex for persons with disabilities than perhaps for other minority target groups and much remains to be done. The labor market in India has undergone remarkable changes in the last decade, and policies for the integration of persons with disabilities into mainstream employment have also changed significantly in recent years. More recently, giving effect to the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD), 2016, promotes and protects the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities in various aspects of life, focusing on equality and non-discrimination. From an employment perspective, the act mandates reservation of jobs for persons with disabilities in government/public sector organization and provides incentives for private sector organizations to foster inclusion. However, underemployment of persons with disabilities continues to persist, as evident through the vacancies reported in reserved positions in government establishments and under-representation in private sector organizations.

While this disparity in employment rates between persons with disabilities and the rest of the workforce has been highlighted as a cause for concern in several studies, not much is noted on the differential employment rates among persons with disabilities, arising from diversity inherent in disability. Uneven representation of persons with varied types of disabilities in the workforce underscores the need for organizations to seek talent beyond their familiar types of disabilities. As employers are key actors in promoting employment of persons with disabilities, this study explored leaders’ perspectives on key factors that direct their decisions regarding targeted recruitment of persons with various types of disabilities. Drawing on thematic analysis of interview data of leaders from seventeen public and private sector organizations, the findings of the study reiterate the uneven representation of persons with various types of disabilities in organizations and identifies some organization specific determinants (knowledge about type of disability, work characteristics, accommodations, accessibility and external pressures) that shape employer decisions. Based on contextual factors, each determinant that influences employer decisions is perceived as enabling (or can be addressed with ease) for persons with certain types of disabilities, and disabling for others, thereby encouraging the inclusion of persons with certain types of disabilities while leading to unintentional exclusion of others. The nature of barriers switches between subjective (familiarity, bias) and objective (architectural barriers) perspectives. External pressures unique to the organization context (industry trends, customer biases, quota system) play a key role.

The study notes that active facilitation through affirmative action coexists with passive discrimination that leads to unintended exclusion of persons with certain types of disabilities. When employers seek an individual/group, based on how easily they can be deployed, it can lead to unconscious bias that those excluded might not possess the required competencies. Therefore, organizations must resist being bounded by their real (andperceived) challenges but rather seek resources (andbest practices) to guide them in overcoming some of these challenges. This will aid in in providing not only sustained livelihood but also in enhancing the standard of living for persons with disabilities toward a more equitable distribution of income/wealth in the society. Workplace disability inclusion requires moving beyond mere acknowledgment to more strategic intent and implementation of universal design principles, toward sustainable inclusion of persons with diverse disabilities into the mainstream.

Ms. Meera Shenoy, Founder and CEO of Youth4Jobs gave the following comments on the study: “Disability is an under researched area in India and globally. This makes it difficult for economists to suggest policies based on hard data and facts. Inclusive employment is an important area in India – in fact, SDG goals cannot be met unless vulnerable sections of the population like girls, youth with disabilities have access to sustainable livelihoods. Additionally, in India to reap the demographic dividend, all marginalized youth have to be skilled and made employable. The present paper: “Diversity in Disability: leaders accounts on inclusive employment in the Indian context” by Vasanthi Suresh and Lata Dyaram, of the Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras, has to be viewed in this perspective. The focus of the paper is on one important stakeholder – companies which hire the youth with disabilities in their inclusion journey. It also highlights a less explored area of disability type influencing leaders’ decision of recruiting from this untapped pool.

Through interviews it captures stereotype views or unconscious biases related to some types of disabilities which act as a deterrent to hiring. Other leader perceptions are dictated by factors like cost of workplace adjustments, accessibility, and the value addition they see from inclusion. The external pressures vary for public and private sector. For the former, legislation and mandates are the drivers. For the latter, it is customer- related or industry- related trends. However, the study misses out on some key industries which employ PwD like BFSI, e-commerce and automobile.

Studies like this will trigger conversations around inclusion and more research on the key stakeholders – youth, families, government, NGOs and companies. 80% of the disabled are in developing countries like India and most of them are less educated, under/unemployed and poor. Studies and work in disability in India is, therefore, important from a poverty alleviation perspective.”

Article by Akshay Anantharaman
Here is the original link to the paper:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/EDI-05-2020-0133/full/html

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