‘An economy that works for people is an economy that works for people with disabilities.’

SW – 01/2020

In keeping with this statement, the European Commission announced in its Communication ‘A Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions’ that it will present a strengthened disability strategy in 2021, building on the results of the ongoing evaluation of the European Strategy for Disability 2010-2020 (see articles Aug-2019 and Oct-2019).

Little progress in workplace inclusion

People with disabilities continue to experience difficulties in accessing education, training, employment, social protection systems and healthcare. Only 50% of people with disabilities who want to work actually have a job.   

The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) pointed out in a recent position paper on the new European Disability Strategy that the figure would be only 25% if people with disabilities who are considered unable to work were included. These statistics have basically not improved in the last 20 years, despite technological progress and the expertise and research needed to build more inclusive labour markets.

Action Plan for the Social Economy

The European Commission also wants to launch an Action Plan for the Social Economy in 2021 to promote social investment and innovation and to increase the potential of social enterprises to create jobs, including for those most excluded from the labour market. Socially responsible public procurement can also help to ensure that existing funds are spent in an inclusive way, for example to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Council conclusions on inclusive labour markets

The Council had already called for better access to the labour market for people who are particularly dependent on assistance in its Conclusions on inclusive labour markets in December 2019. The Council called upon the EU Commission to pay particular attention to these people, including people with disabilities, in all relevant policies and initiatives. This group of people often constitutes an ‘under-utilised resource’. It is important to integrate them into the labour market in order to achieve a higher overall employment rate, social cohesion and inclusion. This should build on existing mechanisms, such as the European Semester, and existing funding instruments, such as the European Social Fund.

The Member States are also called upon to take action. They are invited to continue their efforts to achieve inclusive employment and social policies. People who are particularly vulnerable, including people with disabilities, should be provided with more accessible services across sectors and professions. These could include one-stop-shops, individualised services such as job coaching, subsidies and relevant services for employers. This would require, in addition to better awareness-raising, improved coordination and closer partnerships between the different actors in the periods before and after a placement. Public and private employment services, education and training providers, health and social services providers, civil society, including disability organisations, as well as employers and social partners should all be involved.