Promoting equal opportunities to decent work

19 February 2017

Participants of the conference on inclusive employment Work and employment have a huge impact in our lives and are linked to the ability to live independently and make our own choices in life. According to Eurostat, more than half of the population of persons with disabilities in the European Union (EU) are unemployed. In fact, experts who took part it our conference on 18 February 2017 in Malta stated that these Eurostat figures are too optimistic as many people with disabilities who are unemployed are totally invisible from the statistics.

Women with disabilities even facemultiple discrimination both on the grounds of their gender and disability. EDF Women’s Committee Chair, Ana Pelaez, underlined that for every four jobs made available to persons with disabilities in Spain, only one is for women, and women with disabilities are often in the most poorly paid, insecure jobs.

Being excluded from the right to work and employment on the grounds of disability is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) that the EU and all its Member States -except Ireland- have ratified. According to article 27 of the CRPD, governments must recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others without discrimination.

Our conference in Malta aimed at bringing together a range of interested partners including our member organisations of persons with disabilities from all over Europe, as well as representatives of the European institutions and the Maltese government in order to discuss this fundamental right. At the same time, the conference gave the opportunity to various organisations which are leading projects on employment for persons with disabilities to present them to the participants.

The conference took place in the framework of our Board meeting this weekend in Malta. It was organised in close cooperation with the Malta Federation of Organisations of Persons with Disability and with the support of the European Union and the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The President of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, stated that the CRPD provides governments with a powerful mandate to promote inclusive employment of persons with disabilities and they have the duty to do so. The President of Malta also pointed out that when an individual is assisted and supported in their employment, it is in fact entire families and whole communities which reap the final rewards. She also explained that thanks to the Malta Federation of Organisations of Persons with Disability, over 400 people with disabilities benefited from supported employment in Malta.

EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, highlighted the importance of accessibility as a precondition for persons with disabilities to be able to get a job and in general. “If we have accessible work places, but the transport and the environment in society are not accessible, how will potential employees with disabilities reach the work place?”, he said. Yannis Vardakastanis also underlined that the CRPD is a real opportunity for the EU and the national governments to change their policies and to approach its implementation as business as usual. Finally, he concluded that a global disability rights agenda for 2020-2030 is needed and recalled that EDF has proposed 2021 to be declared as the European year of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Marthese Mugliett, President of the Malta Federation of Organisations of Persons with Disability, talked about how important employment is for living independently, contributing to society, developing one’s skills and participating in social life. Moreover, Marthese Mugliett stated that inclusive employment reinforces diversity in people, talent and skills in work places.

Roberta Metsola, Member of the European Parliament, Group of the European People's Party, expressed that the EU has the duty to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from society and should lead on this issue.

It is really essential to involve persons with disabilities in decisions that concern their lives, said Miriam Dalli, Member of the European Parliament, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. She also mentioned that the participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities is beneficial for the whole society.

A range of challenges were highlighted during the discussions tackling access to work for persons with disabilities: there are legal obstacles, a lack of accessibility, inadequate support, a lack of access to quality inclusive education and job training, stigma and discrimination, and a social protection system that is not fit for purpose now. Delegates also highlighted the importance of choice: people should not be forced to take on specific work, or value less if they are not working, and they should certainly not be paid less than others doing the same work.

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