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Why Is It Good For The Economy To Hire People With Disabilities?
It is considered good economic practice to include as many people inn the workforce as possible. The more people that are participating and contributing to the economy, the more productivity gains and economic returns we can expect for the community.
While people with disabilities have the capacity to positively contribute to the development of a country’s economy and social capital, many of them are not given this opportunity due to many barriers. One of these is the employers’ perception of costs and benefits of accommodating and employing people with disabilities.
Although there may be situations where accommodations have to be made to address the needs of people with disabilities, there are numerous ways companies can support people with disabilities with no extra cost. And the costs to accommodate them, if there are any, outweigh the contributions that people with disabilities can give to the economy.
Untapped Labor Force
People with disabilities represent a large source of untapped labor force. The UNCRPD Secretariat estimates that around 650 million people or 10% of the world’s population are living with a disability. And approximately 386 million of the world’s working-age population have a disability, according to the International Labor Office (ILO)..
In spite of these numbers, the UN Development Program (UNDP) reports that nearly 80% of disabled people in developing countries are unemployed while over 70% of the world’s total disability population remain untapped labor forces.
In the United States, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is at 14.7%, compared with the 9.1% unemployment rate of those who do not have a disability. The Office of Disability Employment Policy reports that as of May 2010, only 22.3% of the labor force consist of people with disabilities, while 70.1% of the labor force are composed of people without disabilities.
The disparity in these scores indicates that people with disabilities are often overlooked and underrated as qualified workers. This is in spite of countless research indicating that there are many organizational and economic benefits to be gained from employing persons with disabilities.
The US Department of Labor predicts that there will be 50.9 million new jobs in the years 2008 to 2018. A part of these job openings will be created from the jobs vacated by the large baby boomer population when they retire. 23.8% of the labor force in 2018 will be made up of people in the 55 years and older group; 63.5% of it will be made up of people in the prime working age group.
Population growth, advancements in medicine, and the aging process are expanding the disabled population. Doing the math, a substantial percentage of the working age group will consist of persons with disabilities. If this population would continuously be excluded from participating in the labor force, how then can these new jobs be filled?
Social Security Savings
The number of people receiving disability benefits is increasing every year. Based on the annual report published by the Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, more than 10.9 million people aged 18-64 received disability benefits in 2008. 62.3% of the beneficiaries received social security benefits, 27.7% received benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program, and 11.8% got both social security benefits and SSI. A majority of the beneficiaries were disabled workers.
Disabled workers received an average of $1,063.10 every month from social security and $478 from SSI. A total of $10.5 billion worth of disability benefits were paid in 2008.
Unlike the Social Security Disability program, Supplement Security Income payouts are not based on insurance coverage. It is a social welfare program designed to help people with disabilities that have little or no income.
So if people with disabilities are allowed to fully participate in economic activities and gain meaningful employment, the government can gain savings from social welfare expenditures.
The high cost of elevated employee turnover rates and an insufficient number of qualified workers present a risk to a business’ competitive edge. Turnovers are expensive. Time and lost productivity cost a business each day that a position is not filled, not to mention the additional operating expenses it takes to search, recruit, and train new employees.
Companies experience an average of 50% turnover every four years, according to a compilation of facts about Training, Work and Jobs by SAGE Learning. And it costs a company 30-50% of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150% of middle level employees, and up to 400% for specialized high level employees to find their replacements.
It makes good business sense to keep competent workers instead of having to replace them all the time. Hiring people with disabilities is a good solution for high turnover rates. Countless documentations about employing people with disabilities show that they are reliable, motivated workers with a lower turnover rate.
Research also shows that it is more cost-effective to make accommodations for an employee with a disability than to find a replacement that would soon leave for another company. The Job Accommodations Network estimates that more than half of the accommodations that must be made for disabled employees are less than $500. Compare this to the cost it takes to find and train new employees that would soon leave for another company.
In addition, employees with disabilities can match or exceed non-disabled employees’ attendance records. Disability is not the same as sickness; a person with a developmental disability, physical disability, deafness, or blindness may be physically fit and healthy.
Of course, non-disabled workers can also be reliable and spend years in a company before leaving. But consider someone with a disability, someone who has the same hopes and dreams as anyone else but has had scarce opportunity to find gainful employment. That person may just be a little more grateful for it and would think twice about leaving. Many people with disabilities will also work hard to prove to their employees and to other people that they can carry out their responsibilities just like everyone else.
Reliability and longevity equals better productivity. And better productivity means greater profitability and economic gains. More robust businesses produce employment and more products and services, measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Much has been done since the implementation of legislation such as the ADA. However, a lot is still needed to be done for the recognition of people with disabilities as qualified workers. People with disabilities are also people who have abilities.
A country’s strength lies in its people. If people with disabilities are allowed to develop their skills and potential through gainful employment, then a country could expect greater productivity gains and economic returns.