APEC symposium seeks to promote employment of disabled persons hinh anh 1You Liang (R), a representative of the APEC Group of Friends on Disability Issues (GOFD), speaks at the symposium on the promotion of employment of the disabled (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Delegates from APEC member economies gathered at a symposium in Hanoi on May 10 to seek ways to promote the employment of persons with disabilities in the region.

Co-hosted by the APEC Group of Friends on Disability Issues (GOFD) and the Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG), the symposium formed part of the second APEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 2) and related meetings.

According to an exploratory study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the macroeconomic costs of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work, economic losses related to disability are large and measurable, ranging between 3-7 percent of GDP.

Meanwhile, the UNESCAP Disability at a Glance 2015 Report, showed that the region’s total workforce has already begun to decline in many parts of Asia and the Pacific due to population ageing. This trend, which will likely continue over the next decades, increases the need for governments to recognize the role that people with disabilities can play in boosting GDP growth by filling labour shortages.

You Liang, a representative of GOFD, quoted the report as saying that in the Asia-Pacific region, it is estimated that about one in six persons, or up to 650 million, experience some forms of disability.

In particular, people with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region are less likely to be employed, and when they are employed, they are more likely to be engaged in vulnerable forms of employment.

Teresa Cannady, of the US-APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration (US-ATAATI), told participants that economies could increase their GDP by 1-7 percent if persons with disabilities were paid on an equal basis. The participation of persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region can minimise expected labour shortages in the coming years, she added.

At the symposium, delegates pointed out a range of employment-related barriers facing persons with disabilities such as the lack of data on the disabled and their employment, incomplete legal protections and enforcement, inaccessible and segregated training and education systems, poor access to professional networks, stigma and biases, inaccessible transportation and inaccessible workplaces, and lack of support to assist injured and ill workers to return to work.

They held that it is necessary to provide better legal protection for persons with disabilities, increase awareness-raising to overcome stereotypes, myths, and prejudices about persons with disabilities in the workplace, address the gendered aspects of employment and work with private and public employers to encourage the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities.

The panels stressed the need to improve inclusive education systems for children with disabilities in anticipation of their future workplace needs, provide better job placement services, effectively communicate the availability of those services to persons with disabilities, ensure that persons with disabilities are paid the same wages as their peers without disabilities, and increase funding for people with disabilities to start their own business.

The participants also recommended making transportation accessible and affordable for persons with disabilities,  increasing public awareness activities to address cultural barriers and attitudes about persons with disabilities, especially concerning their employment capabilities, increasing the engagement with private sector, developing employment skills training opportunities in rural areas for persons with disabilities and engaging persons with disabilities in the development of disability policies and programmes, among others.-VNA