Persons with disabilities are poorly represented in the workforce all across Europe. In the Council of Europe Strategy on the rights of persons with disabilities 2017-2023, development of employment initiatives is clearly identified as a means to promote equality and non-discrimination. Similarly, Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 2039 (2015) “Equality and inclusion for people with disabilities” encourages member States to develop policies to foster the employment of persons with disabilities.
Social protection plays a key role in achieving a disability-inclusive workforce. In fact, well-designed social protection programmes can enhance the productivity and employability of persons with disabilities, and remove barriers they encounter in accessing employment. It is essential to shift away from the traditional disability-welfare approach whereby persons with disabilities are considered unable to work – and discouraged from taking a job -, towards an innovative rights-based model put forward by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The private sector’s engagement is also essential. With the right incentives, it can become the driving force of the change needed to make the labour market more disability-inclusive. Taking good example from the motto “Disability inclusion makes good business sense”, private companies should invest in meaningful implementation of the principle of reasonable accommodation with a view to ensuring equal treatment for workers with disabilities, and enabling them to reach their full potential. Moreover, new technologies offer new perspectives for a disability-inclusive labour market.
The Assembly should take stock of the situation with a view to formulating recommendations to Council of Europe member States on how to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce and encourage parliamentarians to take an active role at national level with a view to implementing the new Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.