The employment of persons with disabilities: Accounting for employment satisfaction and discrimination claims

Disability parking spaces

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A CNA article brought critical attention to the challenges that persons with disabilities (PWDs) face when looking for a job in Singapore (CNA, Mar. 22). Currently, 28.6 per cent of PWDs aged 15 to 64 are employed – mostly in “community, social and personal services, food services, administrative and support services and manufacturing” – and another 4.2 per cent who fall within this age range are unemployed but actively looking for employment. Yet, at the same time, it would be productive to also focus on employment satisfaction among those who have a job as well as increase awareness of and examine discrimination claims.

Since 2018, through the annual Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been collecting data on the employment outcomes of PWDs. However, while the MOM can provide additional details on the specific sectors and the employment rate across age groups, information on employment satisfaction – especially from the point of view of employed PWDs and their employers – can be illuminating for policy decisions. Moreover, knowing the skills and experience that these PWDs possess will be instructive for job-seekers, who may be deciding between further training or education and immediate entry into the workforce.

More critical in this regard is the discrimination faced by PWDs seeking employment. The same CNA article highlighted the role of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), which offered a written reply:

TAFEP said in a written response that in recent years, it received “on average about one complaint of discrimination against people with disabilities each year”, and encourages them to contact the agency if they encounter discrimination.

“To verify allegations, TAFEP’s officers engage employers to review supporting documents, such as job ads, application forms, job descriptions, interview records, relevant HR policies, and correspondence between the parties involved,” the spokesperson said.

That the alliance only receives about one complaint of discrimination against PWDs should raise red flags, and both the lack of anti-discrimination legislation in Singapore and the fear of job-seeking PWDs are important contributing factors. Besides organisations and initiatives working to match these job-seekers with job opportunities, it would be useful to consistently document the first-hand narratives of PWDs, further raise awareness of TAFEP and its mandate, and ultimately not see an ostensibly successful match as the end-goal. Employment is an ongoing experience and should be treated as much by policymakers and researchers.

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