Pipeline to Work: Including persons with disabilities in skills development and employment projects


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Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC.

The relationship between poverty and disability goes both ways: disability increases the risk of poverty , and the conditions of poverty increase the risk of disability. 

Yet, little attention has been given to the employment readiness of persons with disabilities. This is of concern given that the employment rates of persons with disabilities are a third to half of the rates for persons without disabilities, with unemployment rates as high as 80%-90% in some countries.

[Learn more: Disability Inclusion]

Disability is a complex, evolving, and multidimensional concept. Currently, it is estimated that 15% of the world population experiences some form of disability, with prevalence rates higher in developing countries. As opportunities for sustainable income generation are directly tied to a person’s access to finance, markets, and networks, persons with disabilities usually face significant challenges in accessing these, due to:

  • non-inclusive regulations and policy,
  • lack of resource allocation,
  • stigma and societal prejudice,
  • low educational participation, and
  • inability to access their own communities and city spaces.
To continue building inclusive cities, research tells us that countries cannot achieve optimal growth by leaving behind a large group of their citizens – persons with disabilities – with economic losses from employment exclusion ranging from 3 to 7 % of the GDP. We also know that when you combine gender and disability, the challenges facing women with disabilities compound.  Women with disabilities are more likely to earn less than men with disabilities and they are affected by inaccessible sanitation, smaller social and professional networks, and gender-based violence – see, for example, labor force data from the UK.

We need to do much more to ensure that women with disabilities are mainstreamed into projects that seek to empower women as entrepreneurs and change agents.

Expanding equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities is at the core of the World Bank’s work to build sustainable and inclusive communities. So, what might a disability-responsive moonshot look like for development projects  addressing work for persons with disabilities? Here’s what we’re doing at the World Bank:

[Download report: Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity]

We have a framework: 
  • The new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) requires countries to think about the disability-responsiveness of World Bank-funded projects, such as adapting workplaces to include workers with disabilities and to ensure that new buildings and structures are accessible to all. 
We have some good examples:
  • In Rwanda, the World Bank has supported the economic reintegration of ex-combatants, including those with disabilities, through training and access to grants for micro-projects. 
  • In Jamaica, we have supported 1) employment skills for adults with disabilities, and 2) improved education systems for youth with disabilities. The project has already helped to train 336 persons with disabilities, 77% of whom are employed or pursuing advanced training; and 180 are undergoing the current round of training.
  • In India, we are working with the Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship. Under the Skill India Mission Operation, which incorporates disability into job diagnostics and skill gap analysis, it is building inclusive training centers, establishing job referral and placement programs for persons with disabilities, strengthening self-employment provision, and evaluating the use of ICT to offer training in remote areas and skills for high-growth sectors. In addition, there are specific strategies for women with disabilities.
  • In Croatia, the Bank has helped to modernize the social protection system to enable people with disabilities to transition out of institutions so that they can experience greater social inclusion and more opportunity to join the workforce.
We make significant investments in technology:
  • The use of accessible ICT in the transportation sector, education, urban development, and for citizen engagement – all form part of an eco-system critical for persons with disabilities to be included in skills development, have jobs, and contribute to society.
Today, the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice is hosting “Pipeline to Work,” a seminar for World Bank staff on skills development and employment readiness for persons with disabilities. This event is a precursor to the Second Harkin Summit on Global Disability Employment which offers a space for representatives from Fortune 500, business, disability advocacy, government, education, foundations, and civil society to identify and create strategies to increase employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. This year’s Harkin Summit will focus on sharing knowledge on expanding employment opportunities in various settings, and honor pioneers in disability employment.


Join the Conversation

Jafaru O. Mahmud, PhD
November 05, 2017

I commend the initiator(s) of this platform. The problems/challenges faced by the PwDs need to be broadcast more. I am quite excited that the initial thinking that its only a medical problem is beginning to give way to a more comprehensive thinking that gives room for other professionals to contribute towards improving the quality of life for PWds. After the wounds are healed(for those whose condition are created by accidents/sicknesses), the management becomes more than what the Medics and paramedics can handle alone. The lack of this understanding leads to abandonment or outright rejection of assistive devices procured to ease their condition.
Fifteen percent of any population is large. When you compute the others who have to sacrifice their regular activities just to care for a loved one, the number will certainly be higher and this can impact on the families involved greatly, especially as they cannot find jobs easily and their educational levels are quite low(for a greater part of them). Consequently some resort to begging (This is quite common in some parts of Africa).
As much as technology could help hem, we need to step up better frameworks for the design of assistive devices, i.e setting up proper design specifications that is inclusive of their input.

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo
November 17, 2017

Thank you for your comment,Jafaru. You are absolutely correct in pointing out that 15% is a large population group and that the disability impact often extends to the family. This is most apparent when it comes to the hidden costs of disability which vary from being huge i.e. unpaid family care to the more mundane everyday costs related to the needs of some persons with disabilities. On the assistive devices and technologies you are spot on. There is so much potential to use accessible ICT in e-governance, Smart cities and as an education tool.

Ismail Ahmed Mohamud
November 09, 2017

I'm so Somali citizen. I'm physically disabled person, when i was 5 years i suffered a polio disease which made me to become physically disabled, although i live with disability, i struggled to learn as much as i can so recently i graduated from SIMAD university Somalia. know i'm bachelor degree holder and yet i didn't get any job due to luck of job opportunities for person with disability in somalia. U know living with disability a country like somalia is very difficult. So i request the world bank to support me and people with disabilities in somalia.
I will be welcomed if a world bank offer me a job opportunity to advance my fortune