Report: Jobseekers with disabilities left out of Covid recovery plans

People with disabilities are being left out of both economic planning and financial support as Bangladesh builds back from Covid, according to a new report.

The Labour Market Assessment 2021 report, published by Inclusive Futures, highlights that Cottage, Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (CSMEs) are seen as central to the economic development of Bangladesh in the 8th Five-Year Plan. 

However, the draft SME policy (2019) makes no mention of disability either in terms of employment in SMEs or as potential job creators as entrepreneurs who start their own business, according to a press release issued on the report.

Amrita Rejina Rozario, country Director of the Sightsavers Bangladesh Office, said: “It’s critical that people with disabilities are not left out of plans to strengthen our economy. The value they can bring as jobseekers and entrepreneurs is immense. 

“Many already have the skills they need but are still finding barriers to joining the workforce. As our economy moves more towards digital and distance-based employment, there is no reason people with disabilities cannot be included,” she added.

The very effective Covid-19 response packages did a great job in recovering the economy but were accessible mainly to large businesses. SMEs and cottage and micro businesses struggled to access much smaller pots of support, as they were distributed through banks as government pre-financed loans rather than through more accessible NGO micro-finance systems (which particularly micro and cottage sized businesses of people with and without disabilities have better access to).   

On a positive note, the Bangladesh government introduced a 5% income tax rebate for a 10% representation of persons with disabilities in a company's workforce, but this has limited awareness currently with employers, and also does not attract many employers.  

Amrita Rejina Rozario further said: “We know the barriers businesses face when it comes to employing people with disabilities, the concerns about how it could work, it perhaps feels too much to deal with when you just want to fill a position. But they are missing a trick. There’s an untapped workforce out there with the skills businesses are looking for, we just need to open our minds to open those doors.”

Inclusive Futures is a flagship disability development inclusion program funded by UK Aid.  It brings together global leaders and specialists from 16 organisations to test and deliver innovations for people with disabilities in education, healthcare, and livelihoods.

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