Number of Disabled Persons:
According to Census 2011, India had 26,810,557 total disabled persons, of which 14,986,202 were males and 11,824,355 females. They comprise 2.21% of the total Indian population.
According to Equiv.in, a recruitment platform that cited government data for the numbers, in India the unemployment rate among disabled people is more than 70%. Only 34 lakh of the about 1.34 crore People with Disabilities (PwDs) in the employable age have a job in India. Ashok Pamidi, chief executive of Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of the technology industry body, says that he estimated about 0.6%-1% of the IT sector workforce to be disabled people.
As the opportunities for people with disabilities are limited at present, they are less likely to leave the job they have, which is an advantage of hiring these people, said companies. These companies were approached by Economic Times asking them about hiring of PwDs. The main reason for the low employment numbers among PwDs is huge illiteracy rate.
There are several barriers for people with disabilities in the labour market. The challenges can range from their lack of education and training to a lack of financial resources. Other reasons include the nature of the workplace or occupation and employers’ perceptions of disabled people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that social protection systems can create incentives for persons with disability to leave their jobs and move on to availing disability benefits.
Negative attitudes toward employees with disabilities can result in discrimination. These negative attitudes stem from ignorance, misunderstanding, stereotyping, backlash, and fear. Companies, agencies, and organisations are composed of individuals with their own attitudes and beliefs about people with disabilities. Co-workers will draw conclusions regarding the people with whom they work. Supervisors and management staff will make decisions that affect employees. The individual choices that people make regarding the hiring of people with disabilities can be guided by their attitudes.
Many employers assume that co-workers may react negatively if people with disabilities are hired into the organisation. People with disabilities often shy away from applying for certain jobs, fearing social stigma and adverse reaction from potential co-workers. This is more likely when people with disabilities are treated differently in an organisation. In the absence of an effective integration process, people with disabilities often feel shunned by their co-workers. This is because co-workers come with their own prejudices and the actual attributes of people with disabilities are often overshadowed by their perceived shortcomings.
Further, people with disabilities frequently reach a development plateau where they are no longer able to undertake more complex assignments and responsibilities due to their disabilities. They suffer what is known as the ‘lost opportunities effect’, whereby improvement opportunities are lost due to the absence of critical feedback for performance improvement.
Many parents are very protective about their disabled children, which can be a hurdle for the child in becoming independent. Many persons with disability are dependant either on their parents, siblings and friends for small tasks, which makes it difficult for them to independently seek employment. Most of the time they are escorted by their parents/ relatives, whereas companies stress they want persons with disability who are independent.
There are many disabled youth who are not aware about the training/ job opportunities available for them, especially in rural areas where disability is more acute. They are also not exposed much to the outer world and are isolated in their own world. Technological changes especially new trends like online recruitment make it difficult for persons with disability to cope, many of whom have never worked with computers before.
According to Census 2011, 45% of India’s disabled population was illiterate, compared to 26% of all Indians. Of persons with disability who were educated, 59% had completed Class X, compared to 67% of the general population.
According to a 2014 United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation report, among children with special needs, 44% of children with more than one disability were out of school, and children with mental (36%) and speech (35%) disabilities were more likely to be out of school than those with other kinds of disability. A higher percentage of children with hearing disability, orthopaedic/ locomotive disability and visual disability go to school, with only 20%-30% failing to do so.
Within special-needs children who are enrolled in school, the number drops steadily in higher grades, with a drop after Class 8 (48%, compared to 2.6% for all children) and Class 9 (21%, compared to 6.8% for all children), according to the 2015-16 District Information System for Education data.
Government Reservations and Skills Required:
In 1977, the central government initiated the policy of 3% reservation of jobs for persons with disability, but the reservation was only in the lower ranking jobs (C &D categories). With India adopting the Disability Act of 1995, the reservation was extended to higher ranking (A & B) categories.
Most of the posts are reserved for orthopedically handicapped persons and even these posts do not get filled as the persons with disability are not trained to pass the written tests and interviews. In the case of posts which are reserved for visually impaired and hearing impaired people, most of the posts remain unfilled for many years. One of the major reasons is that the requirements as per the government do not match with the skill set which visually impaired and hearing impaired people have. For example, job descriptions still state the visually impaired should have typewriter skills, despite the fact that typewriting training courses are no longer available. As a result, many state government positions in the District Collectors offices are not filled.
What can be done?
Bringing different organisations of disability, technology providers and other stakeholders involved in linking persons with disability to labour markets, under one umbrella is the need of the hour. Training centers for persons with disability giving technical aid should be set up. Workshops that will raise awareness of the rights of persons with disability and also facilitate their hiring and ensuring their special needs at the work place have to be there. To give disabled children basic education and encourage them for higher studies, parents must be involved.
P. S. I am a happy person with disability. Thanks Ammi, Abu for supporting me.
—The writer is from Waghama Bijbehara. He is studying for a Masters in Financial Economics at Madras School of Economics, Chennai.