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Disabled people want to work

Disabled people want to work

While it is important to acknowledge important advances for disabled workers in New Zealand, serious challenges remain, said Commissioner Robyn Hunt, on the eve of International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December.

Ms Hunt welcomed the Government’s repeal of the Disabled Persons in Employment Act on November 30. The result was that sheltered workshops will be required to pay at least the minimum wage to all their employees who will now receive the same entitlements to holiday and sick leave as employees elsewhere.

She said, “For far too many years sheltered workshops have paid many of their workers less than the minimum wage regardless of their ability. This disregarded their human rights.”

She said the move would go some way to ensuring that disabled people were properly counted in the workforce. Commission staff had recently obtained data from Statistics New Zealand that compared the numbers of New Zealanders with and without disability in the workforce. According to the New Zealand Household Disability Survey 2006, 96 per cent of New Zealanders aged between 15-65 without a disability were employed, compared to 93 per cent of adults with disability.

However Ms Hunt said the figures failed to account for the many disabled people who want to work but are not counted as in the labour force.

“There are many disabled people who want to work, but they are not counted and this creates a false picture of the numbers of disabled people able to work,” she said.

If adults not in the labour force are included in the calculation of employment rates, people with disability have a much lower rate of employment, 60 per cent of those with disability are employed compared to 80 per cent of working adults based on information from Statistics New Zealand.

The theme for the International Day of Disabled Persons this year is “Decent work for persons with disabilities.” Ms Hunt said, “This serves to remind us that in this country a high percentage of disabled people are not able to engage in work that would not only help their economic status, but also ensure that they were able to take a fuller part in society.”

She urged disabled advocacy groups, employers and the Government to work together on improving the employment situation for disabled people.

ENDS

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