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Access matters

Tuesday, Apr 10, 2018, by Sheryl Blythen

Getting more Kiwis with disabilities into jobs could add $1.45 billion to New Zealand’s GDP.

Research commissioned by the Blind Foundation last year showed that the unemployment rate for people with a disability is 50 per cent higher than the unemployment rate of the total workforce.

Decreasing the unemployment rate for people with disabilities from 9.2 per cent to the national rate of 6.1 per cent would result in an extra 14,000 workers in the labour market.

If jobs were available for these workers, it would bring not only gains in the GDP; it would also result in savings of $270 million a year in social support payments, according to the Valuing Access to Work report prepared by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

Dianne Rogers, spokesperson for the Access Alliance, a group of disability advocacy organisations and disability service providers, working to put accessibility at the heart of a more accessible New Zealand, says employment is one of the key enablers to a good life.

“Everyone should be able to live a fulfilling life, and those of us who are able to work should have the opportunity to earn a living,” she says. And there are compelling business reasons that organisations should be looking to employ people with disabilities, Rogers says. “New Zealand has 228,000 disabled people of working age who are not employed. Employers who leave this talent pool untapped risk missing out on skilled, highly motivated workers.”

Employing disabled people allows businesses to create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers and the community they serve, Rogers says. Many of the concerns employers have about employing disabled people are based on myths, she says.

A 2011 survey by Deloitte Australia discovered that the vast majority of disabled workers are as productive or more productive than non-disabled workers, and most have better attendance and fewer health and safety issues.

If your organisation has put in place an initiative to create employment opportunities for differently abled people, think about entering it in the Diversability category of the 2018 Diversity Awards NZ™.  Find out more.

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