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South Africa failing the disabled

South Africa failing the disabled


EMPLOYMENT equity interventions and policies have not improved employment prospects for South Africans living with disabilities, according to the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA)

According to the centre’s research, 68% of adults living with disabilities have never looked for a job, and many of those who do find work are more likely to be employed under insecure and exploitative conditions.

The official unemployment rate in South Africa is at 25.20% and Statistic South Africa released data last week that showed that young women were less likely to find employment than their male counterparts, with overall employment prospects more grim than they were in the past.

The CSDA on Wednesday released a study aimed at finding the link between poverty and disability over nearly two years, using secondary data from the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS).

According to research by NIDS a third of people who were living in poverty in 2008 had gotten above the poverty line by 2012, with increased access to services including water, electricity and housing. The CSDA study surveyed 16,878 adults from 7,305 households who considered themselves as having a physical disability or a sensory impediment.

CSDA researcher Lauren Graham said while the gaps in education between people with disabilities and those without disabilities was closing, employment equity laws had not yet smoothed the job hunt for people living with disabilities.

“What we see is that challenges that people with disabilities have faced in finding employment have remained over time. The reasons for opting out of the labour market include not being able to find work and the additional health concerns,” Ms Graham said.

Ms Graham said where people living with disabilities were able to find work, they were more likely to be insecurely employed without written contracts and employers were not paying unemployment insurance fund contributions.

Professor Leila Patel of the University of Johannesburg said this week that while the Employment Equity Act recognised black South Africans, women and people with disabilities, the effect had been slow and minimal in prompting employment for people with disabilities.

“The country is addressing a large pool of people who are unemployed and this group of people is all the more vulnerable because of their unique challenges,” Ms Patel said.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) spokeswoman for women children and people with disabilities Helen Lamoela, however, said that the government should rather reinforce their policies so that disabled individuals become contributors to tax rather than dependents of tax.

“They were excellently graduated but could not find employment and this is where I think the department failed them”, said Ms Lamoela. The study showed that the education gap between the disabled and nondisabled had narrowed over the past 20 years, especially in the 25-34 age group, although researchers said more still needed to be done.

“The department failed to reach a higher target in this regard by under spending. The department tried to pick up the pieces before it was dissolved but it was too late,” said Ms Lamoela.

According to the CDSA’s research, most participants with severe disabilities were living in bigger households or contributing an income to them through a disability grant and other assistance interventions.

The CSDA survey recommended the implementation of employment equity laws to support employment of people living with disabilities and that policy makers raise awareness among employers about the rights of employees.



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