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Finding employment for young people of all abilities

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Young women from family with members with disabilities being taught to use a sewing machine.
India. Photo: © John Isaac / World Bank

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
In every society globally, unemployment rates for persons with disabilities are higher than for people without disabilities. The International Labor Organization reports that, in some Asia-Pacific countries, the unemployment rate of people living with disabilities is over 80%. 

The UN estimates there are over 200 million young people with disabilities worldwide, with nearly 80% of them living in developing countries. In setting a vision for all youth to have access to job opportunities by 2030, the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition recognizes that we cannot achieve this goal without redoubling our efforts to identify and scale up solutions for young people with disabilities.
Youth with disabilities face a cycle of exclusion when it comes to gaining employment
Children with disabilities have a lower likelihood of entering school and face a shortage of inclusive and accessible schools. This compromises their ability to secure adequate employment.
Getting to work on transport systems remains a challenge for young people with disabilities, especially in low income countries with poor infrastructure. Employers frequently have negative perceptions regarding capabilities of youth with disabilities, both to obtain and retain employment.
Moving around within the workplace is often more difficult with limited requirements or incentives for employers to invest in accommodations (by, for example, building ramps). Young women with disabilities take a longer time to find a job than their male colleagues.
The list of challenges for young people with disabilities goes on and on despite studies that show that youth with disabilities are just as productive, dependable, and less absent from work than workers without disabilities. 
More evidence needed about the size of the challenge
Given limited time, finances, and resources, many governments find accommodating a (relatively) small segment of society difficult. Individuals with disabilities are often excluded from census and national surveys; as a result, the data on youth with disabilities are small in number. Without appreciating the size of the challenge, it is often difficult to prioritize resources adequately. In resource-constrained environments, little evidence often results in fewer resources.
There is no doubt that new trends are emerging. These are informed by awareness campaigns that are changing the donor landscape and international dialogue concerning unemployed youth. Employment programs, with additional tweaks, are being used to help youth with disabilities.
In Bangladesh, for example, the World Bank, a partner of S4YE, is implementing the Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) project using information and communication technologies to help youth with disabilities gain the necessary skills and training for employment.
Failing to leverage lessons from projects such as these increases the risk society will miss out on the economic contributions talented youth with different abilities can make.
Employment solutions
All S4YE partners are united in our belief that we need more action, more operations and a laser focus on credible, practical and scalable employment solutions for youth with disabilities. Some lessons and solutions are emerging – but not enough is being done with sufficient rigor and at scale to shift the needle for young people with disabilities seeking productive work.
Many of the world’s leading institutions have each emphasized the need for countries to pay more attention to areas of education, skills development, employment, and information and communications technology for youth with disabilities. It’s time now to build on those calls and promote inclusive, full and productive employment allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market.
We are working hard to identify solutions—what can you do to help us find Solutions for Youth Employment for all youth of all abilities?
The Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) is a multi-stakeholder global coalition established to improve youth access to work opportunities. This coalition was jointly launched by the World Bank Group, Plan International, the International Youth Foundation (IYF), Youth Business International (YBI), RAND, Accenture, and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The partnership now also includes multi-national companies, public sector donors, foundations, international and national civil society actors and key actors.  Its October 2015 flagship publication, Toward Solutions for Youth Employment: A 2015 Baseline Report, is available here.


Matt Hobson

Coordinator, PSNP’s Donor Coordination Team

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