foto marcelo
Marcelo Betti (REDI).

There is no place where the exclusion of people with disabilities can be seen more clearly than in the statistics showing chronic unemployment levels among this group of people. By not being able to “earn a living” by working, a correlation is then in turn established between disability and poverty that condemns many into a toxic dependency pattern. Their economic situation tends to worsen because they often need more money – compared to other people – to meet their current expenses and necessities. For example, affording more expensive accessible transportation and the need of hiring assistants to help them in their daily life activities. At the same time, there is also an inverse causation here, since it is in poor areas where disabilities are more present. Only the people with disabilities who live in high-income households or whose disability is not very crippling, escape from this situation – avoiding poverty, but not always dependency.

In Argentina, statistics on people with disabilities are suspected to be unreliable, and are not performed as often as they should be. The 2010 Census showed that there are 5.1 million people with “permanent difficulties or limitations,” or 12.9 percent of the population. And the working age population with disabilities adds up to 11.8 percent of the total, 55.4 percent of them unemployed. The City of Buenos Aires also created statistics concerning disabled people in the 2011 Annual Household Survey. As expected, the data reflected a very low activity rate. Of every 100 working age people with disabilities, only 31 work, or are looking for work. To set a comparison, for the general population the numbers are 61 percent. Finally we can read in that Survey that, of those who work, only 16 percent of them say they need support in their position. This confirms the intuitive argument that the majority of those employed have the less disabling limitations among the general handicapped population.

Unfortunately, the City of Buenos Aires only began highlighting the issue of disability in 2011. It was not included as a permanent theme in the annual survey, but approached as a special module. For the sake of context,  the “special module” in 2014’s survey was the responsible ownership and health of dogs and cats. A clear example of the marginal place that people with disabilities are given in public policy.

The main cause of unemployment is that they do not reach the productivity demanded by the business world, with its main objective being to maximize profits – equation designed around minimizing costs. Persons with disabilities are excluded from the competitive labor market because they occasionally need more time to produce the same thing that other workers do. To this problem, we should add the higher costs involved adapting the work places or the tools – that sometimes do not have an inclusive design scheme that adapts to the worker.

There are other four important constraints in obtaining employment for people with disabilities that should be mentioned: 1) Just getting to work is a challenge, cities in general are hostile environments for people with disabilities, plagued with broken sidewalks. 2) The lack of an efficient networks of accessible transport means that they have to use private cars or taxis whose cost they can not cover with their low salaries. 3) They need more time to prepare to go to work, to get there, to take care of their health…all this meaning that they can not take the standard 8-hour workdays. 4) Having a lower level of training, because they are excluded from the education system or have attended low quality special schools.

And if that was not enough, we must add the attitudinal barriers, the lack of awareness and the sheer fear of integrating people with disabilities, who are often labeled as not able to work — these are all ideas that are very present in the public common sense. Businesses only integrate people with disabilities in response to social responsibility programs, whose objectives are more linked to “washing guilts” than anything – and also subordinated to the profitability equation.

The lack of training is often considered by some as the main cause of unemployment, but it clearly isn’t. The above mentioned problems add up and combined, they result in the exclusion from the labor market that people with disabilites suffer.

The idea that the lack of training is the main cause of labor exclusion led to the proliferation of several training and vocational guidance job courses that lure those who attend to them with jobs that they often do not get. For people with disabilities, training should be provided at the workplace.

The Ministry of Labor, stuck with this logic, directs its greater efforts towards this kind of training. According to a poll for a report made by the Network for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (REDI in spanish) in 2016 the Labor Ministry acted as a mediator in hiring 78 people, in the public and private sector. But this has provided work training to… only 2,640 people. Thus, it showed a very low effectiveness in reaching for jobs for the excluded people. Only 3 percent of the actions of the Ministry consisted in getting an actual job, being the rest 97 percent was linked only to training or vocational guidance. Also the Ministry made 1506 trainings carried out in non-governmental organizations possible. That is, 57 percent of the trainings managed by the Ministry were in NGOs — a sector that does not offer more opportunities in proportion in the job market.

One of the actions that our organization strives to get, is the fulfillment of the disability job quota in the public sector. Not being the main goal of the State maximizing profit, it opens a door to work for people with disabilities. However, the central government continues to fail to comply with regulations that establish the obligation of meeting a 4 percent disability labor quota. According to the latest data, December 2015 — with concern, we see that the publication was discontinued — the quota reached 0.88 percent in the national public administration.

The quota also applies to the City of Buenos Aires and other provinces, where it is not met either  – and sometimes not even measured. Furthermore, there is an interesting regulation to impose a quota on private companies with more than 100 employees that was approved by the Senate last year, and seems to be stuck in the Chamber of Deputies. These regulations would help to deconstruct the social perception that exists around people with disabilities. Finally, to finish describing this grim scenario, we must add that the National Government, since January 2015, has frozen the recruitment of personnel in the State.

Faced with this panorama of exclusion from the labor market dominated by capitalist companies, the movement of people with disabilities must continue demanding that the public sector quota be actually met, indeed. Recently, REDI has obtained a favorable ruling from the Litigation and Administrative Appeals Chamber in a case that makes comply the city garbage collector company CLIBA to meet the quota, since it is also required for companies that provide public services. The sentence is signed and on court enforcement.

Promoting the Solidarity Economy Sector is another alternative that must be done. This crucial sector can offer job opportunities through cooperatives, mutual societies and other forms of communitary associations. Enterprises where the profit is not sought, and the main goal is satisfying needs. Where collective construction and co-management among workers commands the achievement of business revenues. Hence, places where people with disabilities are fully integrated, taking them out of their historical place of dependency and chronic unemployment.