UN labour agency spotlights need for decent work for people with disabilities

3 December 2007

The United Nations agency tasked with ensuring decent work for all called today for greater efforts to break down the barriers that still prevent millions of people with disabilities from fully participating in the labour market, citing a strong link between disability and poverty.

In a new report entitled “The Right to Decent Work of Persons with Disabilities,” the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that although much has been accomplished in recent years to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, millions around the world continue to suffer violations of their rights.

They tend to experience high unemployment, underemployment, have lower earnings than persons without disabilities and often drop out of the labour market completely, according to the report – released today for the International Day of Disabled Persons, which this year focuses on the goal of decent work for people with disabilities.

At the same time, there is a growing awareness that people with disabilities represent enormous, untapped economic potential, and that they can make a valuable contribution to national economies, the report adds.

“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.”

The agency estimates that some 650 million people – or one out of every 10 people in the world – have a disability, and that of these, approximately 470 million are of working age. Despite efforts to ensure access to jobs, people with disabilities as a group often face disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment.

“There is a strong link between disability and poverty,” the report states, adding that an estimated 80 per cent of all people with disabilities in the world live in developing countries. Of these, some 426 million live below the poverty line.

The report stresses the need for significant efforts to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in employment, which will also contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for halving poverty by the year 2015.

The ILO said the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted last December, which guarantees the right to work, will go a long way in helping to promote inclusion.

Since its adoption, 118 countries have signed the Convention which introduces new international human rights standards to combat discrimination and promote equality of persons with disabilities.

Marking the International Day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) today launched a series of commitments to improve the working conditions of staff with disabilities.

“The international community adopted new international standards on the rights of persons with disabilities one year ago,” said Louise Arbour. “Those standards should apply to the United Nations as much as to States and I commit to promoting decent work in my Office over the coming year as part of this effort.”

The commitments include improving working conditions for staff with disabilities and for staff who have children with disabilities, sensitizing staff about disabilities in the workplace, and introducing an internship programme for interns with disabilities.

 

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