Contrary to popular belief, there are more people with disabilities living amongst us than you think. The World Development Report, by the World Bank, reported that one billion people (15% of the world’s population) have some form of disability. In Malaysia, the number of registered PWD with the Social Welfare Department in 2017 was 453,258. Out of this number, 35.2% are physically disabled.
Given that the pandemic has affected employment opportunities of people from all walks of life, let us take a look at some government policies in place to increase employment of PWD in the workforce:
This is an action plan from 2016 till 2022 that is in line with the ten disability development goals in the Incheon Strategy. It seeks to provide equal rights, opportunities and access under national laws, eliminate disability discrimination and increase societal awareness towards PWDs rights.
This is an initiative to ensure ‘PWDs could gain accessible means to independently earn an income’. This programme was presented to the National Employment Council and it is projected to create 35,000 income opportunities by the end of 2021.
There are also several legislative measures safeguarding the PWDs interest in securing employment, namely the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and Occupational Safety & Health Act 1994.
There is a policy implemented through service circulars in 2008 and 2010 to provide 1% employment opportunities in the civil service for PWD. Up till June 2019, the total number of PWD in the civil service was only 3,686, equivalent to 0.29%.
Aside from local government policies, there are international conventions and regional master plans to improve the quality of life for PWD. This includes Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Comments on Existing Government Policies on Employment for PWD
While these existing policies and initiative to coincide with an international PWD framework gives a positive impression that PWD have sufficient rights and welfare, the implementations of these policies still shows that PWD are lagging behind from mainstream development.
Chairman of the Committee on Employment and Economic Empowerment of the National Council for the Blind Malaysia, Dr Ahmad Shamsuri Muhamad said that PWD do not have access to equal employment opportunities as compared to ordinary people. Most government ministries and departments have only 0.3% out of the 1% margin for PWD in civil service.
There are no clear initiatives on how private corporations should deal with employing PWD in the workforce. More so, most of the current government policies for employment of PWD are not updated.
While policies and laws are essential to establish awareness and place a responsibility on employers to be more responsible towards PWD, employers and colleagues play a huge role in ensuring the workplace environment and support systems are in place for enhancing the job prospects of PWD. Looking at the existing policies and laws, there is still a lack of direction or guidance in this aspect.