Employment of individuals with disabilities is one of the important components for achieving economic independence and inclusion. While the advantage of employment is same to all, it carries additional significance when it comes to minoritized population as they face discrimination and exclusion in the community. In one hand, employment is linked with financial improvement and on the other, it is related to making themselves visible in the society which connects with increased self-esteem. I have done most of my research on human capital investment of disabled individuals. One of our research indicates that people with disabilities have two or three times higher wage returns to the investment in education (Lamichhane and Sawada, 2013). To put it in a simple way, returns means the income you earn and obviously income can be gained through employment. Despite higher returns on educational investment, we understand that unemployment of disabled individuals is higher in both low and high income countries compared to their counterparts without disabilities. While looking at the barriers to employment broadly on disabled individuals, some of our previous research indicate that they are mainly arising from biases on the part of employers believing that individuals with disabilities are less productive than their nondisabled counterparts. While we cannot reject this being partly true if no workplace accommodation is made, there are plenty of examples that disabled individuals actually could perform better if they are assigned to the right job considering comparative advantage that each of us poses.
The right to employment for people with disabilities is enshrined in Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD works to promote and protect the human rights of people with disabilities, with Article 27 explicitly recognizing their right to work on an equal basis with others. The same article further emphasizes the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities (UN 2006). UNCRPD also prohibits all forms of employment discrimination, promotes access to vocational training, promotes opportunities for self-employment and calls for reasonable accommodation in the workplace. However, in most countries, these provisions are yet to be implemented in full. Thus, the productive employment of people with disabilities in developing countries still remains largely untapped with failed policies and strategies to improve their labor market participation hindering poverty reduction as a result.
That being said, with the ratification of CRPD, countries have developed or started to develop anti-discrimination law on disability, requiring that reasonable accommodation be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities to effectively perform jobs. Because of CRPD’s effect, the employment situation is likely to be improved but yet it is far from the expectation.
A number of factors impact labor market outcomes for disabled people, including the perceived or sometimes actual difference in productivity between people with and without disabilities; labor market imperfections related to discrimination and prejudice; and disincentives arising from disability benefits.
However, it should be noted that people with disabilities have the potential to engage in white-collar, full-time and better-paid jobs in formal sectors. For their employability and to widen their occupational options, besides having reasonable workplace accommodation in place, it is also necessary to address other issues such as improving employer attitudes and skills through quality education and compulsory training programs.