Earlier this week CCS Disability Action addressed the issue of employment discrimination for people with disabilities in New Zealand. This is a pressing issue that we as a country are severely lagging behind in.
While other countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States collect quarterly data regarding the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, New Zealand does no such data collection. This shows that the lack of awareness about employment discrimination for those with disabilities starts at the most basic level given that this really should be standard practice.
David Matthews, CCS Disability Action Chief Executive says, “Disabled people are overrepresented on benefits and in unemployment. In 2011, 35 per cent of people on a main benefit claimed a disability allowance. Only 45 per cent of disabled people were in the labour force compared to 77 per cent of people without disabilities.”
In order to address the issue of employment discrimination, we need to understand why it occurs. People with disabilities who are physically and mentally able to be in the workforce certainly do not like being welfare dependent for obvious reasons – being financially independent is the key ingredient for having autonomy over your own life for groups of people who have to be dependent on other people for significant aspects of their life. Therefore these stats should indicate marginalization at a structural level, which is the foundational issue that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately we still live in a society where significant portions of employers think that people with disabilities are somehow less competent than the able-bodied.
Mr Matthews then added, “Without accurate data, how do we know whether we are actually addressing the issue? When the government starts collecting regular data, I will know it is serious.” I agree with this completely. Collecting data is the most effective step the government can take to show that they are acknowledging the issue and collecting regular data is the best way to show how desperate the problem of employment discrimination for people with disabilities is in this country.
True and long-lasting inclusion of all sectors of our society occurs when the majority of the population bands together to make it happen. But it also happens when the people who have decision-making power are actually on our side.