Striving for an inclusive and accessible workplace
Although there are no records on the number of people with disabilities in Serbia, it is estimated that 500 000 – 700 000 people with various types of disabilities live in the country. According to the last census, around 8% of the total population in Serbia has some form of disability, while the Report of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality estimated the presence of close to 10% of persons with disabilities in the general population.
When it comes to employment of persons with disabilities in Serbia, it is estimated that two thirds of persons with disabilities have pension as their main source of income, around one fifth belong to the category of dependents, whereas very few of them have a salary as their main source of income. Despite the progress achieved since the adoption of the Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, most persons with disabilities remain outside the labour market.
Employment is essential not only to achieve economic security of the individual, but also for individuals’ physical and mental health, personal well-being, sense of identity and sense of self-worth. People with disabilities can be useful for themselves and their families as well as for the society as a whole through appropriate training and employment that matches their competencies and work skills.
With this in mind, the organization Youth with Disabilities Forum, in cooperation with the National Employment Service of Serbia and the Employment Agency of Montenegro, has started the implementation of the project “Pathway to inclusive labour market” since December 2018. The project aims to improve the employment of long-term unemployed persons with disabilities through the creation and implementation of a package of measures and services, as well as the strengthening of social inclusion of people with disabilities on the labor market.
The low levels of inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market is a complex problem and a number of related factors have contributed to it, including high overall unemployment in Serbia, the lack of support services and the lack of prioritizing the problems of marginalized groups, the inability or unwillingness of people with disabilities to look for jobs because of employers’ prejudices and stereotypes and the lack of willingness to adapt the work environment to the needs of person with disabilities and invest in their training, the incompatibility of the labor market with the professional competencies of the jobseeker, and the insufficient awareness of employers about the potential of persons with disabilities.
The Youth with Disabilities Forum justifiably recognizes that attempt to solve the problem requires a comprehensive approach and that effort should be made to work with people with disabilities including in the business sector.
One of the activities of Youth with Disabilities Forum’s project is the training of 20 professionals from four cities in Serbia: Nis, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Belgrade for providing innovative support for the employment of people with disabilities, piloting profiling processes and direct continuous work with users through psychological rehabilitation. Professionals with significant professional experience working with sensitive groups have been selected for this intensive training (lasting 100+ hours), and two of the three training modules have been held so far.
The third module will be held in September, followed by the implementation of group and individual workshops for 80 persons with disabilities.
After the process of profiling, depending on current situation, the user will be offered training for additional qualification / re-qualification or employment.
However, the activities of the Youth the Disabilities Forum do not end there. There are plans for the realization of training for the business sector and the realization of measures to support employers for the labor integration of persons with disabilities.
Hopefully, other stakeholders will follow pioneering examples of good practice and people with disabilities will be easier to come up with the job opportunities and realize their human rights, such as the right to work.
This activity is part of the project “European Union Support to Active Youth Inclusion”, financed by the EU (IPA 2014) and co-funded by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. The project is managed by the Ministry of Finance, Department for Contracting and Financing of EU Funded Programmes (CFCU). The main project institutional beneficiaries are the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs and Ministry of Youth and Sports.