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COVID-19 could compound disadvantage for workers with disabilities

News   •   Apr 19, 2021 07:00 BST

The COVID-19 pandemic is having negative and far-reaching consequences on labour market participation and social inclusion, which may further disadvantage people with disabilities. Labour market support measures with a disability inclusion perspective will be vital for safeguarding the already vulnerable position of people with disabilities, and to ensure that the disadvantages faced by many are not compounded even further. This is according to Eurofound’s new research on Disability and labour market integration.

The full report, published at the beginning of the European Commission’s new strengthened disability strategy for 2021–2030, examines policy developments in EU Member States aimed at supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the open labour market, with a particular focus on the three stages of entering into employment, staying in the job and returning to work after an absence. It explores the mechanisms and effectiveness of more than 150 different policy measures designed to address the dimensions in place in the EU before the COVID-19 pandemic and provides an updated analysis of those rolled-out in the wake of the pandemic that aimed to specifically support people with disabilities.

The report notes that, despite progress at policy level, participation in the labour market remains a major challenge for people with disabilities, and the significant economic and employment uncertainty caused by COVID-19 brings into question whether some of the advancements made in recent years will continue. In terms of obstacles to the functioning and efficiency of institutional and policy settings in this area, the report highlights bureaucratic difficulties, lack of strategic vision in governance, insufficient monitoring of policy implementation, limited training resources for employers, and lack of specialist support as particular areas of concern. 

The research emphasises the heterogeneity of those classified as living with disabilities, and that EU governments have started to incorporate individualised measures and coordinated services into disability policies, focusing on a capacity-based approach that supports the full integration of people with disabilities into the open labour market. During the pandemic employment-related responses have played a key role in protecting people with disabilities from becoming unemployed, however, the support provided is often limited and it remains difficult for those who are not working to find a job.

Speaking on the publishing of the report, Daphne Ahrendt, Eurofound Senior Research Manager, emphasised the need for a multidisciplinary approach in addressing the needs of people with disabilities on the labour market: ‘Although research across Europe is preliminary and ongoing, there is evidence that issues such as financial precarity, loneliness and isolation are felt more acutely by those with disabilities; dealing with the potentially compounding impacts of COVID-19 on disadvantage must be a priority for policymakers, employers, trade unions and other stakeholders in the years ahead.’ 


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