Are persons with disabilities the invisible workers?

10 December 2014
Participants of the discussion

According to the latest EU data, there is still a 26% difference in rates of employment for persons with and without disabilities across the EU. This is 30 points lower than the Europe 2020 target of 75% employment for persons with disabilities. Despite the implementation of different national and regional policies aimed at increasing the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market, overall the participation rate of persons with disabilities is significantly lower than for persons without disabilities, which reinforces social inequalities.

Within the framework of its involvement in the DISCIT project, on 10 December 2014, EDF organised a discussion with Eurostat and the main EU policy-makers to exchange information and data on this important topic and gather innovative ideas on the field. Entitled ‘Persons with disabilities at work: the invisible workers?’, the meeting took place at the European Parliament hosted by MEP Jutta Steinruck, S&D Coordinator of the Employment Committee.

Opening the discussion, EDF Vice President, Gunta Anca, underlined the importance of the right to work for persons with disabilities: “Access to employment is a fundamental right and the condition for persons with disabilities to be able to live independently and make the quality of their lives better. Unfortunately, the employment rate of persons with disabilities is still low and the EU itself as well as each of its member states should work to reassure the active participation of persons with disabilities in society.”

From her side, MEP Jutta Steinruck, said that removing barriers for persons with disabilities and making Europe accessible for everyone is a social duty. She also underlined that disability rights should not be considered as a small part of social policies but should be mainstreamed in all EU policies.

Chairing the round table debate, the Head of Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the European Commission, Maria-Luisa Cabral, clarified that an effective way to promote the active participation of persons with disabilities in society is to make sure they have a job; in this way they will be independent and they will be able to contribute to society like anyone else.

Bjørn Hvinden , coordinator of DISCIT project, said that: “Available statistics now have weaknesses that undermine their use for knowing what works and what doesn’t work in disability policy. The statistics should be made more comparable. We need to know more about why there are so strong differences between European countries in the proportion of people reporting they have a disability. Moreover, we need to use more effectively national times-series data to examine the effects of new policy measures.”

Pascal Wolff and Lucien Agafitei from Eurostat, presented a survey on the employment rate and living conditions for persons with disabilities in different European countries.

EDF Board Member, Erzsebet Földesi, talked about how EU policies can increase the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market. Erzsebet shared EDF’s proposal for the Employment Directive that it should be revised in the light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and that its implementation should be monitored. She also emphasized the necessity for the EU structural funds to be used to improve employment for women, men and young persons with disabilities.


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