LETTER: There are 488,948 registered persons with disabilities (PWDs) up to October 2018, which translates to 1.53 per cent of Malaysia's population, according to the Department of Social Welfare (JKM),
As for employment, the number of PWDs working in 2018 was 0.003 per cent in the public sector and 0.001 per cent in the private sector, according to reports quoting Challenges Foundation president Mary Chen.
As the gap between the participation of people with and without disabilities in the workforce is widening, there is an urgent need for the government to provide fair employment opportunities for those with disabilities as they also have a right to a decent level of living.
With the pandemic affecting our lives and making the job market more competitive than ever, vulnerabilities and barriers faced by people with disabilities, in terms of employment prospects, are worsening.
Thus, what can be done to ensure this group of people get equal chances as the non-disabled people since they also need jobs to earn a living?
First, as we face economic uncertainties, it is unfair to make it mandatory for businesses to hire disabled people as businesses are also struggling. Thus, to make it fair for both parties, the government might want to introduce a wage subsidy programme that provides a financial incentive for employers who hire PWDs.
Perhaps, this wage subsidy could be paid to the employers for 12 months of the PWDs' employment provided after the subsidy period has expired, employers provide them with sustainable and permanent positions with good salaries.
Second, for the salary, the government could also form an organisation that provides free productivity assessments for PWD employees to help employers determine a fair salary for them based on their productivity so that no discrimination can occur.
Third, as consumers are starting to embrace online shopping, now is the best time to encourage disabled people to venture into online business as a means to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
To achieve this, the government needs to provide them with financial aid, be it in grants or loans, to help start their online business. Besides, online business coaching programmes for PWDs, such as online business plan creation and business resources, should also be provided to those who are interested.
Given that the Internet is a perfect marketing platform, the potential for PWDs to seek this form of self-employment would be feasible, with a high potential to succeed, just like the others.
However, it is also critical for all agencies related to online businesses like post offices to upgrade and make alterations to accommodate the disabled people in doing their job. Perhaps, the 2021 Budget will touch on this too.