Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Persons with disabilities: breaking down barriers

Persons with disabilities: breaking down barriers An estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population experience moderate or severe disability—that is, severe or extreme impairments, limitations in functioning and restrictions in participation (WHO and World Bank, 2011). Persons with disabilities routinely face accessibility and attitudinal barriers that hinder their participation in social, economic and political life. They have less access to education, poorer health and lower participation in the formal labour market than people without disabilities and, as a result, are at considerable risk of poverty.

Almost all countries offer some form of social protection to persons with disabilities. However, more than half of these are contributory social insurance schemes, which leave behind children as well as persons with disabilities who are not working in the formal labour market. Significant gaps in coverage are found even in high-income countries: in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for example, over 20 per cent of persons with disabilities were not receiving any public benefits in the late 2000s, nor were they employed (OECD, 2010a). In recent years, many OECD countries have taken steps to reform social protection for persons with disabilities, tightening conditions for eligibility and receipt of benefits and leveraging sanctions when these are not met. As a result, the number of persons with disabilities receiving public benefits in these countries has declined.

Although several developing countries have made great strides in improving coverage of persons with disabilities, benefits are often inadequate. Data for 29 developing countries indicate that the amounts received through tax-financed disability schemes are often less than 15 per cent of per capita GDP.5 Disability benefits range from 51 per cent of per capita GDP in Uzbekistan and 35 per cent in Brazil to less than 5 per cent in China and India. Significant variations are also found in richer countries: means-tested disability benefits in Singapore range from 3 per cent to 5 per cent of per capita GDP, while those in the Republic of Korea range from 2 per cent to 7 per cent, depending on the severity of the disability and the beneficiary’s level of income.6 While disability benefits can help households meet their basic needs, they fall short of covering the costs of disability-related expenses. Nor are they sufficient to replace wages, even though the inability to work is often set as a condition for payment.

Social protection schemes are just one of the policy tools needed to support persons with disabilities and their families, and they must be carefully designed, lest they undermine economic participation. For example, when eligibility for benefits is conditional on a person’s inability to work, it perpetuates dependency and reinforces negative stereotypes. An inclusive approach to social protection empowers its recipients and ensures a basic income for all individuals, regardless of circumstances.


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