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Bold Action Needed To Close Employment Gaps For Disabled People

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission shares the concerns of the community about the persistent, significant, and worsening gap in employment rates for disabled people.

Even when disabled people overcome the many barriers to gaining employment, the latest Stats NZ figures show an increased income gap of $225 per week less (median wage or salary) compared to what was already an alarming gap of $144 pw in 2021.

In combination with the additional costs of disability, the income gap creates real material hardship.

“As called for by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, governments need to consider affirmative actions to address the persistent employment gaps for disabled people,” says Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner Prudence Walker.

“We need bold measures if disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori are to secure their rights to equal employment opportunities.

To reduce such significant gaps in a reasonable timeframe, we need very deliberate and affirmative actions designed with disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori in both the public and private sectors,” says Walker.

Affirmative action might look like recognising employers who are proactive in employing disabled people and eliminating existing barriers to work. Organisations could explicitly prefer suppliers who have good systems for employing disabled people.

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A larger sample size and disaggregated labour market disability data for Māori and ethnicity is needed to show the extent of the gaps.

There are some initiatives designed to address barriers in the Working Matters Disability Employment Action Plan.

“But these are incremental measures which will take considerable time to nibble at the gaps and disabled people have already been waiting far too long to be valued in the workforce,” says Walker.

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