On 3 December, we mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Each year, this Day is observed to raise awareness about issues facing people with disabilities and to shed light on their quest for dignity, rights and full inclusion in society. It is an excellent opportunity to look back at the ILO’s commitment, dating back to 1922, to breaking down barriers and opening doors, by promoting employment and training for people with disabilities.
People with disabilities have a valuable contribution to make in the world of work, but their potential often remains untapped. The ILO estimates the cost of excluding persons with disabilities from the labour market at between 3 to 7% in lost GDP. © A. Fiorente/ILO
In 1922, the ILO set up a Disablement Committee to work on recommendations for disabled workers. The Workmen’s Compensation (Minimum Scale) Recommendation, No. 22, adopted in 1925 was the first international instrument to address the vocational rehabilitation of disabled workers. © ILO
The ILO Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation No. 99, adopted in 1955, broke new ground in international policy terms and was the benchmark for advice to constituents on developing national legislation, policy and programmes catering to the training and employment of disabled persons for the next 30 years. © ILO
From the mid 1960s to mid 1970s, the International Labour Conference continued its attention to disability issues, adopting three disability-related resolutions: the Resolution concerning Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons,1965; the Resolution concerning Disabled Workers,1968; and, the Resolution concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Disabled or Handicapped Persons, 1975. © ILO © ILO
Earlier resolutions on persons with disabilities adopted by the International Labour Conference, combined with initiatives undertaken by the United Nations system, international, regional and nongovernmental organizations, helped launch global campaigns such as the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons in 1982 and the UN Decade of Disabled Persons 1983 – 1992. ©ILO
In 1983, the ILO Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention No. 159 established disability as a condition of occupational disadvantage. With more than 80 ratifi cations, the Convention continues to serve as a policy benchmark on disability, reflecting the growing global understanding of attention being paid in countries around the world to disability issues and to the rights of disabled persons to be included. © A. Fiorente/ILO
Together with ILO Convention No. 159, the UN Convention provides fresh impetus to the promotion of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in training and employment. The ILO contributes to the future development framework – the Post-2015 agenda – by supporting policies and approaches that foster inclusive economic growth with decent work for all. Within the ILO, a Disability Inclusion Initiative, which encourages all staff to consider a disability perspective and people with disabilities as part of their work, was welcomed by the ILO Governing Body in 2012. © P. Brown/ILO
The Global Business and Disability Network is an employer-led, public- private partnership developed by the ILO. It drives strategic business awareness about the positive relationship between inclusion of people with disabilities and business success and promotes the hiring, retention and professional development of people with disabilities in the workplace. Trade unions play a key role in the prevention of discrimination and in the promotion of rights and opportunities for disabled workers around the globe. One important way is to recruit, organize and integrate them into the movement. Another way is by campaigning and negotiating on behalf of persons with disabilities, ensuring that disability issues are covered in collective bargaining agreements at national and company levels. © P. Brown/ILO
Trade unions play a key role in the prevention of discrimination and in the promotion of rights and opportunities for disabled workers around the globe. One important way is to recruit, organize and integrate them into the movement. Another way is by campaigning and negotiating on behalf of persons with disabilities, ensuring that disability issues are covered in collective bargaining agreements at national and company levels. © ILO
One out of every seven people in the world— or some 1 billion people— has a disability, making them the largest minority group. Between 785 and 975 million women and men with disabilities are estimated to be of working age but many do not work. While some are successfully employed and are fully integrated into society, as a group, they often face disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment.
The exclusion of many people with disabilities from the workplace has a negative impact, not only on their individual lives but also on society as a whole. Persons with disabilities tend to have low living standards, poor education and health.
In addition, the exclusion of many people with disabilities from the world of work has detrimental effects on the economy: the ILO estimates that it results in a 3-7% GDP loss.
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Discover what the ILO has been doing since the 1920s to promote employment and training for people with disabilities
The ILO adopts the Workmen’s Compensation (Minimum Scale) Recommendation, No. 22 (1925)
The ILO adopts the Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation No. 99 (1955)
The ILO and puts forward the idea of establishing an umbrella factory solely operated by disabled persons (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), most of whom had previously relied on begging for a living (early 1960s). Also in the 1960s the ILO adopts the Resolution concerning Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (1965), and the Resolution concerning Disabled Workers (1968).
The ILO adopts the Resolution concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Disabled or Handicapped Persons (1975)