Physical disability and employment problems in India
Fahid Fayaz Darangay
According to census, 2011, conducted by Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, India is having 26,810,557 total disabled persons out of which 14,986,202(2.41%) are males and 11,824,355(2.01%) are females.
This contributes 2.21 % of the total Indian population. This means a statistically significant number whose contribution to any field cannot be ignored or they either can’t be ignored also.
The decadal growth rate from 2001 to 2011 was 22.4 % in total. The decadal growth rate among males was 18.9 % and among females 27.1 %. This concludes, there is higher decadal growth rate in females compared to males. Another fact worth mentioning here is that urban decadal rate (48.2%) is quite higher than the rural one (13.7%).
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%. That is shocking. Only 34 lakh of the about 1.34 crore People with Disabilities (PwDs) in the employable age have a job in India. The chief executive of Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of the technology industry body, Ashok Pamidi 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 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 these numbers is huge illiteracy rate.
There are several barriers for people with disabilities to enter the labor market. The challenges can range from their lack of education and training or a lack of financial resources which limit access to labor markets. Other reasons include the nature of the workplace or occupation and employer-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 the 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 organizations 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 also assume that co-workers may react negatively if people with disabilities are hired into the organization. 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 post entry into the organization. In the absence of an effective integration process, people with disabilities often feel shunned by their co-workers.
This is because coworkers 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 to become 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 the 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 is illiterate, compared to 26% of all Indians. Of persons with disability who are educated, 59% complete Class X, compared to 67% of the general population.
Source Census, 2011
According to a 2014 United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization report, among children with special needs, 44% of children with more than one disability are out of school, and children with mental (36%) and speech (35%) disabilities are more likely to be out of school than those with other kinds of disability. A higher percentage of children with hearing disability, orthopedic/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 concludes District Information System for Education data.
Government reservations and skills required
In 1977, 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 because 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 type writing 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 organizations of disability, technology providers and other stakeholders involved in linking persons with disability to labor markets, under one umbrella is the need of the hour.
Training centers for persons with disability giving technical aid should be setup.
Workshops that will raise awareness of the rights of the persons with disability and also facilitate hiring and ensuring their special needs at the work place to be organized.
To give their disabled children the basic and primary education at home and encourage for further higher studies parents must be involved.
(P S… I am a happy person with disability. Thanks… Ammi, Abu for supporting me)
(The author is presently pursuing Masters in Financial Economics from Madras School of Economics, Chennai)