Differently abled people can be transformed into valuable assets to society by ensuring productive employment
Persons with disability (PWD) do not deserve to be regarded as a curse to society. It is commonly believed that disability creates poverty and poverty, which in turn aggravates disability due a lack of access to income, nutrition, literacy, and health care. In the social context of Bangladesh, PWD are often considered to be dependent, unproductive, and even cursed, by people around them.
Disability is also believed to decrease output by consuming the economic contribution of family members, close friends, and relatives who support PWD. But they also have the unique strengths, skills, and talents needed to be entrepreneurs; they can contribute to their families by being involved in income generating activities (IGA) if they are properly guided, trained, and facilitated.
In 2017, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics found that there are more than 11.10 million PWD living in Bangladesh. Among them, 55.8% are between 16 and 60 years old, and thus belong to national workforce. Of the total Bangladeshi population, PWD comprised 6.66% in 2017, merely 0.82% in 1981, 0.47% in 1991, and 1.60% in 1998, representing the rising trend of PWD in Bangladesh with the passage of time.
Bangladesh is now a role model of development both among developing and developed countries -- but keeping a large number of people in great misery, no country can truly be developed. With respect to human rights, disability is a very important issue that cannot be ignored while considering the socio-economic development of a country like Bangladesh.
It is high time we think about how to ensure socio-economic welfare for marginalized groups -- especially for PWD. Some economists anticipate that if entrepreneurships or employment opportunities are created for PWD, our GDP growth would increase by another 1.7%; in turn, extreme poverty might decrease significantly.
According to the Greek philosopher Plato, one should concentrate on the occupation in which one has the comparative advantage and efficiency in one’s respective field. In a study conducted by Norafandi and Diahin in 2017, it was revealed that entrepreneurships should be selected for PWD according to their efficiency. The study found that if one or more parts of a PWD are inactive, the other parts of the body would become highly responsive.
The government can try to utilize their competence by training them intensively according to their physical capacity. Indeed, most of them can be made competitive with minimum training or skill development. A study can be carried out on the scope of employment of PWD in Bangladesh so that the government can put forth a pragmatic policy. It can be made effective with the help of local governments, NGO officials, volunteers, and entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship training will help them be self-employed and self-reliant, which will enable them to contribute to social inclusion and play a significant role in their empowerment. Participation in entrepreneurship development will strengthen their financial capability in the long run. Their involvement in business will also ensure a constant flow of income.
Policy support from the government is necessary; without it, no institution will move forward to create that scope for PWD. Secondly, self-advocacy can be an important part of the self-employment process for people with disabilities.
The Department of Social Services is responsible for providing vocational and entrepreneurial skills training to PWD. Business training and support services can be enhanced to make them capable of addressing their needs in market situations.
Financial and non-financial support (ie specialist advice, monitoring and supervision, business and management skills training, information and signposting, etc) should be provided to promote and sustain the business ownership of PWD.
Access to technology and the acquisition of assistive technology, including internet facilities, can enable them to utilize their labour. Indeed, access to different forms of technology can help PWD make best use of their skilled, semi-skilled, and even unskilled labour.
A customized policy and business-friendly environment, including proper infrastructure, can be developed for PWD entrepreneurship development.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can be developed to secure employment opportunities for PWD in both private and public sectors. It is also necessary to ensure an open space environment for PWD to get involved in Small Business and Self-Employment Service (SBSES).
The Department of Youth Development can develop a special quota system for PWD to reduce the existing and growing gaps among the youth in receiving training on IGA and self-employment activities all over Bangladesh.
Indeed, differently abled people can be transformed into valuable assets to society by ensuring productive employment. Entrepreneurship development can be a significant breakthrough in increasing labour market participation of PWD. It is important to the present context of Bangladesh because the country will soon face increased shortages of low-skilled labour.
PWD can be a good source of such labour if the country can utilize them effectively. Let us not forget that “one cannot change the direction of the wind, but can adjust sails to always reach thes destination.”
Sultan Mahmud is a research officer at the Bangladesh Institute of Social Research (BISR) Trust.