Employment of people with disabilities in Greece
The policy or policies for work and employment, or in other words, the fight against unemployment and social exclusion, take on a special importance when it comes to citizens belonging to the category of persons with disabilities.
One of the most important tools for the integration of people with disabilities into society is employment. Employment, together with education, are the main levers for the integration of people with disabilities into society, while at the same time the lack of comprehensive intervention policies in these areas is one of the main causes of social exclusion.
In these cases, a large number of complex problems arise, and the responsibility of the state and of society as a whole towards these people, who are estimated to make up around 10% of the country’s total population, is multiplied.
Especially for the disabled, their employment opportunities depend on a number of additional factors which are:
- a) the type of disorders they have
(b) the specialised training to be provided to these persons by the State; and
(c) their acceptance by the local community.
The best and clearest possible picture of the actual situation of people with disabilities in relation to work and employment, by category (age, gender, etc.), would be an additional important tool for the formulation and implementation of policies for the vocational rehabilitation of these people and would be a decisive factor in the effectiveness of the measures to be implemented.
- State intervention
In the field of employment of people with disabilities, it is only in the last 30 years that State interventions have begun to take shape. In 1979, with Law 963, in 1986 with Law 1648 and in 1998 with Law 2643.
With the last revision of the Constitution (Article 21, paragraph 5) a general reference to the rights of disabled people to equal opportunities is made and in 2004 the Community Directive 78/2000 on combating discrimination is incorporated into Greek law, where there is a clear reference to taking measures to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities.
However, we note that all legislative interventions of the State, related to the employment of disabled people are included in the social protection measures for other population groups, with the consequence that positive actions in favour of disabled people are diffused.
- Main causes of unemployment of people with disabilities
We consider it useful, first of all, to summarise the main causes of the exclusion of people with disabilities from the labour market:
Social prejudice, with social racism, which, as a mindset, is still a structural characteristic of our society; The lack, on the part of the State, of an integrated central planning, combining the needs of people with disabilities with education, vocational training and vocational guidance.
The changes taking place in the labour market, in new technologies and in the economic environment in general, without people with disabilities being assisted with the creation of the necessary support structures to enable them to integrate into the labour market.
Administrative bureaucracy in relation to the functioning of the mechanism of forced job placements. (e.g. Law 2643/98 on vacancy notices).
The lack of access infrastructure for people with disabilities, such as accessible buildings, transport and others, which means that people with disabilities are not facilitated to participate in social life.
In summary, the current reality is as follows:
The exclusion of disabled people from the labour market, particularly in recent years, has reached explosive proportions. According to estimates by the OECD, this figure is as high as 80%, while in the EU-15 countries it averages 50%.
The lack of a register of disabled people and the absence of individual databases for the processing of specific qualitative and quantitative data has meant that all the measures taken from time to time have been fragmentary.
The Ombudsman’s Report (June 2005) clearly describes the situation in the employment sector with regard to the implementation of Law 2643/1998 and administrative procedures in general.
In order to integrate disabled people into the labour market, our country has adopted the model of forced placements in jobs. However, social discrimination against people with disabilities by public and private sector enterprises is common.
As pointed out in the Ombudsman’s Report, a large number of disabled workers do not have sufficient information about the documents required for employment, so that applications are rejected due to lack of the necessary documents.
In particular, private sector companies systematically refuse to hire people with disabilities for jobs. Social prejudices, as well as inadequate vocational training, are the main reasons for refusing to recruit workers with disabilities.
At the same time, programmes funded by the European Union and the Greek State for vocational training and education have been developed and implemented throughout this period, through the three Community Support Frameworks.
However, it does not appear that these have so far contributed to their main objective, which is to reduce unemployment.
The lack of indicators for evaluating these programmes in terms of the results they produce has the direct consequence, on the one hand, of wasting resources and, on the other hand, of training of dubious quality and effectiveness.
Vocational guidance is practically absent from the activities of the bodies responsible for the rehabilitation of disabled people and the training programmes that are implemented do not meet the qualitative criteria necessary to offer the disabled people who participate in them adequate training to meet the needs of the labour market.
The integration of people with disabilities into the labour market is not an easy task, given the major problem of unemployment and a market that is constantly being :
increasingly competitive and with demands for a more and more highly qualified workforce, they face great difficulties in integrating into the labour market.
Some further observations to be made on the issues of labour integration and employment of people with disabilities include the following:
Central planning, on the part of the State, for the employment of disabled people, aimed at studying the labour market, the possibilities of rehabilitation of disabled people in professions they can effectively exercise, with the introduction of the disability register and the creation of parallel databases. It also highlights the regional dimension of the problem, which should be taken into account, taking into account the specific characteristics of each region.
There is a need to implement specific programmes to improve the living, education and employment conditions of people who are often victims of discrimination. These programmes should be designed and coordinated in a coherent way, while all general programmes (in the field of economic development, employment, urban development, etc.) should be considered in the light of their impact on vulnerable groups. It is also important to involve representatives of these groups in the design and implementation of these programmes.
Passing a law exclusively for the employment of disabled people. Assessment of their formal and substantive qualifications and transparency in the recruitment system. Increased protection against dismissals.
Strengthening the state’s control mechanisms, which must function effectively and independently.
Adequate vocational education and training that meets the needs of the economy and the labour market, with the introduction of vocational guidance.
Promoting the potential of disabled people as professionals, while creating all the necessary support and technological infrastructure to enable them to enter the labour market on an equal footing.
Unimpeded access for people with disabilities to the Information Society is considered essential. ICT can play a catalytic role in improving the quality of life of vulnerable population groups. In this context, the following, among others, are essential:
Implementation of international accessibility standards in all ICT applications (business websites, e-learning, e-commerce, etc.).
Implementation of international accessibility standards in all public sector ICT applications (websites, ticket offices, one stop shops, info kiosks, etc.).
Creation of accessible thematic databases (tourism, culture, sport, city guides, etc.) with information on services and infrastructure accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly.
Development of telecommunications applications accessible to disabled and elderly people (voice mail, local navigation systems, video calls, etc.).
Recognition of the principle that people with disabilities, with the necessary support, are part of the productive potential of society.
Combining the forced recruitment model with corresponding alternative forms of placement, through continuous information for employers and institutions.
Providing incentives, in various alternative forms, for companies employing people with disabilities.
Raising awareness in society through information (television, radio, publicity, dialogue) to combat discrimination, prejudice, stigma, the problems that everyone can potentially face and to ensure that the State guarantees equal opportunities. At the same time, it is proposed to highlight the contribution of school education in familiarising pupils with diversity.
Codification of legislation on all issues relating to people with disabilities. Adequate information for people with disabilities about the rights provided by the system and continuous support in exercising them. Information must be provided in a way that is geared to the specific characteristics of each group. Also for this information, the participation – cooperation of state and local institutions with non-governmental organisations and volunteers is necessary.
The need for appropriate training for state officials who deal with vulnerable groups of the population, aimed at developing skills in approaching vulnerable groups with sensitivity and in argumentation to convince those who deal with these people that their stereotypes are wrong.
And certainly Human Resources Development, support, empowerment, encouragement, increasing the productive capacity of people from vulnerable social groups and the activation of economically inactive population groups, should be the spearhead for local communities, in the context of the actions designed and implemented by the Regional Operational Programmes for:
the endogenous development of the local economy and the exploitation of local resources (agri-tourism, cultural tourism, cottage industry, etc.)
support for entrepreneurial efforts to develop new forms of employment or innovative business activities (provision of services tailored to local needs, environmental protection, improvement of quality of life)
the strengthening and development of cooperatives or the creation of joint ventures and consortia leading to the creation of new jobs.
Access to the labour market for all people, particularly vulnerable social groups, is undoubtedly fundamental because it contributes to :
The socio-economic autonomy of the individual, breaking the cycle of Unemployment-Poverty-Isolation.
strengthening social cohesion and solidarity
moreover, beyond being a constitutional right, it is a characteristic of a society with a human face, which accepts diversity and the right to Equal Opportunities, and of a state that demonstrates this by institutionalising in this direction.