Letters

Ensure the disabled get decent jobs, income

disability

A group of disabled people head to a media briefing in Nairobi on December 2, 2020. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Summary

  • More than one billion people are living with some form of disability across the globe.
  • In developing countries such as Kenya, the unemployment and underemployment of PWDs are much higher than those without.
  • The Kenyan government has attempted to promote and protect the right to work for PWDs through initiatives such as affirmative action plan of offering tax incentives.

Phitalis Were Masakhwe narrates in his autobiography, Sailing in Storm, the story of overcoming obstacles placed in the way of people with disabilities (PWDs).

Tomorrow, the world will be celebrating the International Day of People Living with Disabilities under the theme "Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 world".

In developing countries such as Kenya, the unemployment and underemployment of PWDs are much higher than those without. More than one billion people are living with some form of disability across the globe.

That means an average 15 percent of the world's population experience some form of disability.

Data from the World Bank indicates that 80 percent of these people acquire disability between the ages of 18 and 64, which is the average working age for most of them.

Regrettably, eventually, they are likely to be unemployed.

Most of them live below the poverty line of $1.5 per day. Moreover, the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic shock makes the matters worse for PWDs, though even in the best of times, people with disabilities face difficult situations in the labour market.

The Kenyan government has attempted to promote and protect the right to work for PWDs through initiatives such as affirmative action plan of offering tax incentives, though it has not been satisfactory.

Worse, they experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of unemployment and higher poverty rates due to discriminatory prejudice and stigma, which excludes them from economic and social activities.

A quick reality check on the ground shows that few persons with disabilities are in formal employment despite legislation requiring at least five percent quota for PWDs in the public and private sector.

This is disgusting, morally incorrect and unacceptable in any democratic society.

The economic empowerment for PWDs is the surest prescription to people with disability woes. It will enhance, enable and engage them economically to get decent jobs and income. Further, it will go a long way in reducing poverty among PWDs and their families.

However, PWDs not only need funds or direct grants support but also, urgently need education assistance, assistive technologies or devices, infrastructure and equipment grants to support and equip them acquire the necessary technical, leadership and software skills required to successfully run their start-ups and increase their employability prospects.

There is a need for the national and county governments to put in place policies that move beyond the employee status of PWDs.

Firstly, encouraging, promoting and supporting PWDs to become self-employed and develop their entrepreneurial capacity too make them economically independent and self-reliant.

Secondly, provide interest-friendly loans and affordable credit to PWDs who want to start and expand their own business.

Thirdly, include PWDs in national political and economic conversations and mentorship programmes to make them able and capable of running viable and profitable projects.

The economic power for people living with disabilities from the private sector, government and civil society will enable them to realise their aspirations, improve their living conditions and participate more actively in society.

This will be a significant milestone towards achieving social, political and economic inclusion of PWDs in our beloved country, according to Vision 2030 and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Davis Basweti Ombane, Economist