"Much more needs to be done to combat the unacceptably low levels of people with disabilities in our workforce”.
Commissioner Marianne Thyssen addressed this message to the audience during the 2015 EASPD annual conference on Employment in Zadar (Croatia). The conference focused on the implementation of article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities whilst showcasing best practices of inclusive employment and employment support from across Europe.
From 7 to 8 May 2015, EASPD organised the Conference ‘Persons with disabilities in employment. Inclusion through Jobs – Making it real’ in cooperation with OSVIT, local authorities from the cities of Zadar and Zagreb as well as the Social Affairs Croatian Ministry. 300 individuals from the disability field across Europe participated in the Conference, which focused on Employment issues. The Conference aimed at addressing the implementation of article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) whilst showcasing good examples of inclusive employment and employment support from across Europe.
This topic is essential for EASPD as many of its member organisations are specialised in employment support, securing career paths and advocating for inclusive employment in the labour market, but also because many European countries are experiencing high levels of unemployment and there is a need to deepen the exchange and research on this topic in the disability field.
During the conference, Franz Wolfmayr, EASPD President, highlighted the urgent and persistent problem of unemployment and underemployment among persons with disabilities in Europe. ‘Figures show that in Europe more than half of the disabled people are unemployed, some of them being even legally excluded from the labour market’, he stated. This is a major reason to highlight the urgency to address the topic and find solutions.
He continued by presenting the EASPD Employment Declaration, officially launched in January 2015 which recommends that “support services should be provided in two ways: support the person itself to find a job but also support the enterprises to provide opportunities and create the necessary conditions to ensure employment for persons with disabilities”. Furthermore, EASPD believes that there is also a need to shift the focus away from a disability perspective on to a skills and competences perspective.
Boosting jobs and promoting employment is at the heart of Europe’s concerns and actions. During the conference, Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner in charge of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility addressed the audience through a video and stated that “employment is indeed a top priority for Europe but also fairness and inclusion. No one should be left behind as we strive for more jobs. Discrimination has no place in Europe”. “Today the employment gap between people with and without disability is 23.6%” and “much more needs to be done to combat the unacceptable low levels of people with disabilities in our workforce”, she added.
The European Commission plans to launch a series of measures this summer to support Member States in getting people, especially the longer term unemployed and young people into work and developing a skilled workforce. In view of contributing as early as possible into the EC's work, EASPD has developed a position paper presenting the key factors needed for support services to effectively contribute to tackling long-term unemployment in Europe; not only of persons with disabilities, but all disadvantaged groups. EASPD calls on the EC to implement measures which provide a win-win situation for both the employee and employer and recommends the “STAR” holistic approach (Stakeholder cooperation, Targeted actions, Availability of support, Research). In addition to this, EASPD has also developed the research paper “Strengthening the workforce for people with disabilities: Initial mapping across Europe”.
Material of the conference
Conference programme (all presentations soon available)