THE Covid-19 pandemic has pushed us to rethink and reformulate the local agenda and ecosystem for employment. This includes teleworking, digitalisation of the workplace, and aggressive promotion of e-commerce.
However, many of these strategies and working options are not new as they have been advocated by people with disabilities (PWD) and their organisations around the world for a long time.
Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 vaccination efforts in progress, many of the progressive steps in the labour sector, especially the work-from-home option, are now being viewed as measures to be used only during an emergency and we might be reverting to the status quo soon.
Although we commend the government for its various initiatives in providing opportunities for PWD to have gainful employment since the late 1980s, such as the policy on one percent quota for job placement in the public sector, tax incentives for the private sector, and the continuous job-related fairs, we have yet to achieve the aspired change.
Reports revealing that only 0.35% of employees in the civil service are PWD highlight the lack of success of the one percent quota placement policy.
Moreover, we do not have reliable statistics on employees with disabilities in the private sector. Data on discrimination cases against employees with disabilities are also not available.
As we celebrate Labour Day today, the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM) calls upon the government to fulfil its obligations as stipulated in Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Section 29 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, as well as key actions underlined in the Asean Enabling Masterplan 2025, Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly AEC 1, AEC 24, and ASCC 8.
This can be done by initiating the following measures:
1. Review and report the progress of the Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities 2016-2022, particularly target programmes under the second strategic core, and ensure that the progress report is publicly available to all stakeholders.
2. Develop and implement, through close collaboration with organisations of and for PWD and other relevant stakeholders, a comprehensive strategic framework on the access and equity of PWD to decent work – one that encourages multiple employment tracks, including professional careers and self-employment in the various economic sectors.
The framework should include, but not be limited to:
(i) Reviewing and amending the one percent quota policy on the placement of PWD in the public sector, taking into account their diversity, provision of resources to establish an appropriate support system, and meaningful career development for civil servants with disabilities.
(ii) Reviewing and amending all tax incentive policies for employers, both for employing PWD and general tax incentives for private sector employers, to encourage reasonable accommodation in the workplace and the industry overall, as well as ensuring that persons with disabilities are part of the direct beneficiaries of such policies.
(iii) Further strengthening measures to promote entrepreneurship among PWD, including digital economic activities, by providing entrepreneurial training, access to financial services and online platforms including websites, and other technical support as underlined in the Asean Enabling Masterplan 2025, especially AEC 2, AEC 4, AEC 21, ASCC 25, and ASCC 27.
(iv) Amending the Labour Act 1955 and other related laws so that they are aligned with Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of PWD.
(v) Establishing a division under the Human Resources Ministry to be responsible for ensuring access and equity of PWD in the local employment sector.
3. Provide sufficient funding for and invest continuously in the above strategic framework.
We call for greater cooperation between the government, particularly the Human Resources Ministry, and organisations of and for PWD to advance the inclusion of PWD in the local labour sector.
As citizens of this country, we are eager to contribute to our nation’s economic and social development, and we do not want to be viewed as merely welfare recipients. Happy Labour Day 2021.
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE BLIND, MALAYSIA