KATMANDU, Nepal, September 15 (IPS) – A pre-pandemic report released by the International Labor Organization, ILO, global employment trends for young people 2020, offered a sober analysis of the labor market outlook for young people.
“The participation rate of young people (aged 15 to 24) has continued to decline. Between 1999 and 2019, despite the increase in the global youth population from 1 billion to 1.3 billion, the total number of young people active in the labor market rose from 568 million to 497 million ”.
Moreover, while young people are the ones who know best how to adapt and adapt to new technologies, they are also those who run the most risk of losing previously available job opportunities.
With the pandemic and the multiple and overlapping crises it brings, the chances of a young person finding a job are even lower, especially in developing and low-middle-income economies.
While in these countries, a young person belonging to upper and middle class families is likely to successfully cross the post-pandemic thanks to his skills but also thanks to his status and his connections, vulnerable young people remain stuck in a cycle. exclusion and lack of opportunities.
This is even more true if you live with a disability, whether it is a physical or developmental issue or a psychosocial issue that makes it difficult for you to find a job.
Considering that the vast majority of young people living with a disability in a developing country begin their quest for employment at a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers without disabilities due to the lack of quality education and other opportunities offered by society , the Covid-19 pandemic is really at risk of further reducing their chances of earning a living with dignity.
A joint publication of the ILO and the Asian Development Bank, ADB, Addressing the COVID-19 Youth Employment Crisis in Asia and the Pacific, clearly portrays a bleak future for millions of young people aspiring to enter the workforce.
“The employment prospects of young people in Asia and the Pacific are severely compromised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people will be hit harder than adults in the immediate crisis and will also bear higher economic and social costs in the long run, ”the report says.
A job for a young disabled person, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but elsewhere, is now an even more remote possibility.
A reset that could potentially spark a positive revolution in global and national priorities, under the banner of ‘building better forward’, is what has been sought after by experts around the world.
Such drastic changes to boost more sustainable economies can also help transform them into more inclusive economies, ensuring a leap forward in employment opportunities for those who stayed before the pandemic.
For a young person living with a disability, this implies better chances of finding a job as well as better opportunities in the education system, a prerequisite for the former.
A change in outlook of this proportion would imply not only putting disability at the center of government action but also a whole effort to reframe disability in modern society.
Changing attitudes about the role people with disabilities can play is a sine qua non if we are serious about creating a level playing field.
Positively, in recent years there is no doubt that much progress has been made towards more inclusive labor markets, but we are only at the beginning.
Despite positive signals, we must go further, broader and bolder.
The Return on Disability Group created by Canadian Rich Donovan, author of Unleash Different, was a pioneer in presenting the business case by focusing on disability as an opportunity.
The ILO is leading efforts within the United Nations system by activating the Global Business and Disability Network, a global consortium of large companies willing to include accessibility and general rights of people with disabilities among their top priorities.
GSK, the mammoth pharmaceutical company, has pioneered the field by creating the Global Disability Confidence Council, made up of its senior executives.
“Disability Confidence describes best business practices that ensure dignified and equitable access and inclusion for people with disabilities as valued colleagues, potential colleagues, customers, shareholders and citizens,” says GSK.
Around the world there are other promising initiatives like The Valueable500, a global campaign whose members, all major companies, engage in practical and groundbreaking initiatives to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.
For example, Proctor and Gamble is conducting a global disability audit while Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian automaker, is working to enable a job portal to better target and include young people with disabilities.
These are just a few examples of what global conglomerates can do to change the status quo.
Yet piecemeal approaches cannot work and that is why we need a holistic drive from across government to radically reframe how policy making works to meet the rights and needs of people with disabilities. .
Global trade can also play a vital role here.
First, it is imperative that global disability-focused business networks talk to and collaborate with each other.
Second, while what the most powerful multinationals are doing is relevant, it is not enough and our expectations of what multinationals can do must be higher.
Granted, we need more of them to commit to new internal goals, but one-off initiatives need to become the springboard for much more holistic actions that include their global supply chains and sales. global.
If Proctor and Gamble is serious about taking disability to the next level, then resources must be spent across all of its massive operations, including vendors and contractors.
If Mahindra & Mahindra is serious about disability then it should make sure that all of its distributors around the world embrace the issue as well.
Along with this “total all-encompassing” approach, resources must be used for advocacy and lobbying. This last word is often used with a negative connotation, but we really need to put pressure on governments and policy makers to really take the rights of people with disabilities seriously.
The labor market, especially in developing and emerging countries, will only become more inclusive if local businessmen and local politicians are compelled to commit to disability.
This means not only accessible workplaces or even possible quotas in the labor market, but an overhaul of policymaking from education and social security, because without access to quality education, young people with disabilities will only remain on the margins of our economies.
The global private sector can really make a difference here because it has the prowess and the capacity to be heard and to demand action.
The quest for a more inclusive labor market does not only involve initiatives to make it more inclusive for people with disabilities.
This is why the 2nd edition of the Global Disability Summit next year must really focus on new partnerships with the private sector aimed at making disability central to the economies and societies that we want to reimagine.
Working from the top and ‘modernizing’ the labor market by making it more inclusive should lead to a holistic societal approach that takes advantage of the skills and untapped potential of young people with disabilities.
Simone galimberti is co-founder of ENGAGE, a non-profit NGO in Nepal. He writes on volunteering, social inclusion, youth development and regional integration as a driving force to improve people’s lives.
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