Wednesday, April 24, 2024

LEFT OF CENTRE: Why pay them to stay home?


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THE International Labour Organization biennially conducts a programme on Labour Market Integration Of Persons With Disabilities, which brings together participants from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean.  
For ten days, students are bombarded by a whirlwind of ideas on the ways in which people with disabilities can be included in mainstream employment.
One of the most outstanding realities forced on everyone was not so much how to adapt offices to suit the disabled; it was not even the explosion of assistive technology which effectively levels the playing field and which, within the changing face of business, affords people with disabilities an opportunity to be fully employed.
What was most striking was the fact that countries that do not embrace and actively encourage employment of the disabled are robbing themselves.  
According to statistics gathered by the World
Bank’s Disability Development team, disability is the single most impacting phenomenon worldwide.
It is estimated that in households with disabled people, the family is more likely to be poor and children less likely to enjoy a full and effective education.
Canada has estimated that the loss to its economy by not employing the disabled runs into tens of millions of dollars annually.
Translating all of these details into a Barbadian perspective, we are faced with a similar dilemma.
Annually, members of our workforce become “medically boarded” and are sent home to live on pensions.
This means that people who still have a contribution to make to our society are relegated to mere service recipients; in essence, they are told that they can no longer serve
their country.
It may be true that their newly acquired disability has reduced their effectiveness in doing work the old way, but with retraining they could continue to do their jobs or work in
another area.
    In 2007 Barbados signed the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities.
    Article 27 of the convention calls on all states and parties to ensure that opportunities are provided for this integral part of our community to be employed.
    When we consider that with an aging population Barbados will have more people with disabilities, the reality will be that the number of people on disability benefits will also increase.
    We must therefore find ways to reduce the number of people on disability benefits.
    We encourage those who become disabled or their family members to investigate the various options for retraining, explore options for self employment – a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities await investigation.
As we recognize the Month Of The Disabled, let’s commit ourselves to making the best use of all of our resources.


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