People with disabilities are the world's largest minority group according to the most recent estimates of disability incidence from the World Report on Disability (2011), jointly published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank. An estimated 15 per cent or 1 billion of the world's population has some form of disability. Those of working age are also quite significant ---- between 785 to 975 million people with disabilities are 15 years of age or older.

People with disabilities represent a huge untapped source of human talent. As a group however, people with disabilities are too often excluded from the society and workplace --- and from the experiences, such as a good education and market-driven training that would give them the foundation to contribute to the workplace and the development of their country's economies.

While country-level data is often lacking, in all parts of the world, people with disabilities are:

  • less likely to be employed than non-disabled persons
  • less likely to be registered as employed or as unemployed, and are thus invisible in the labour market
  • more likely to be in low-paid jobs with poor promotional prospects and working conditions, when they do work.

The situation is even more difficult for women with disabilities, who are less likely to have a decent job than either non-disabled women or men with disabilities.

According to the ILO Code of practice for managing disability in the workplace (2002), the ILO defines a disabled person as "an individual whose prospects of securing, returning to, retaining and advancing in suitable employment are substantially reduced as a result of recognized physical, sensory, intellectual or mental impairment". With a growing emphasis that social and physical environmental factors constrain the participation of disabled persons in the world of work, there are increasing efforts to build and organize society in a way to enhance the participation of disabled persons in society and increase their employment prospects. At the same time, it has become clear that people with disabilities have a valuable contribution to make in the workplace and to the national economy, in jobs suited to their interests, abilities and skills with adaptions as required.

Participation of disabled persons in society and the workplace is a question of rights at the individual level, of diversity and business benefit at the company level and of social economic development at the country level. The ILO Global Business and Disability Network is seeking to promote the employment of disabled persons in the workplace from the perspective of rights, social and economic development of the countries in which they operate and from the business case for diversity. Become a member and learn more.


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