|Christopher Watson (R), a representative of the US, speaks at a symposium on Promoting the Employment of Persons with Disabilities.
Talking with Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reporters on the sidelines of a Symposium on Promoting the Employment of Persons with Disabilities in Hanoi on May 10, delegates revealed that most of APEC members have extensive legal, regulatory, and policy frameworks that support the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce.
Jenjeera Boonsombat, a disabled delegate from Thailand, said her country has given due attention and priorities to the disabled and encouraged persons with disabilities to work for private companies and state agencies. Thai people have also changed their attitude towards the ability of persons with disabilities and understood that the disabled also have the same job opportunities as normal persons, she noted.
Thailand’s Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act requires the employment of 1 percent of disabled persons by all public and private sector employers with more than 100 employees. Private sector firms who fail to meet this requirement must pay into the Fund for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Public agencies failing to meet the one percent are required to provide concessions or public spaces for persons with disabilities to sell products.
Other APEC economies also use quota systems to mandate the hiring of persons with disabilities in the government and/or the private sectors. Quota systems set a minimum percentage for employing persons with disabilities.
Japan’s Act for the Promotion of Persons with Disabilities contains a quota of 2.3 percent for public and 2 percent for private employers. A levy is collected from those not meeting the quota, whereas an allowance is provided to those businesses that meet or exceed their quota. Also, the Act provides for grants to those business owners who satisfy necessary conditions to further promote and help to maintain the employment of persons with disabilities. Noncompliant companies with more than 200 employees must pay a fine of 50,000 yen per vacant position per month.
Su Chao Ju, Director of the Employment Assistance for People with Disabilities and Disadvantages Division under the Chinese Taipei Ministry of Labour’s Workforce Development Agency, said Chinese Taipei has more than 1 million persons with disabilities. The economy has adopted a policy to ensure a compulsory ratio of persons with disabilities in the workforce.
Chinese Taipei’s People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act requires that a private sector firm with more than 67 employees employ at least one person with disabilities, at a ratio of not less than 1 percent of the total number of employees. Firms with less than 67 employees are required to pay a subsidy to the Disabled Employment Fund, based on the difference in number of employees multiplied by the monthly basic wage.
The Philippine law requires that government agencies and government-owned corporations reserve 1 percent of jobs for persons with disabilities. The law also recommends that private corporations with more than 100 employees meet the same quota.
In the Republic of Korea, a business with 50 or more employees is subject to quotas for persons with disabilities: 3 percent for government, 2.3 to 3 percent for public organizations, and 2.3 percent for private companies.
Russia’s law also requires a quota for the employment of persons with disabilities of 2 to 4 percent of the average number of workers. This quota applies to employers of 100 or more persons. For those employing not less than 35 but not more than 100, quotas can be imposed up to 3 percent.
It could be said that APEC member economies are working to ensure employment for persons with disabilities who represent about one in every six, or 650 million people in total in the region. By integrating them into the workforce, economies could enhance the economic wellbeing of a significant number of people and provide an outlet for their unique contributions toward regional economic growth and innovation.
Agus Diono, a delegate from Indonesia, said the symposium did not mention charity activities for persons with disabilities but discussed how to ensure equal rights for them, including rights to education, protection and employment. It also shared experience in supporting persons with disabilities to integrate well into society.
Hosted by the Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG) in collaboration with APEC Group of Friends on Disability Issues (GoFD), the symposium formed part of the second APEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 2) and related meetings.