Societal prejudice, environmental barriers that obstruct mobility and institutional and regulatory policies that may discriminate against people with disabilities have been highlighted as some of key employment barriers in the GCC.
Lack of skills and training and lack of access to digital opportunities also add to those barriers, PwC Middle East said in its Remote-Ability report that examines the current situation of people with disabilities (PWD), identifies the barriers to their effective participation and provides a set of steps and interventions that will support their inclusion in the labour market.
The current shift to remote working, combined with a focus on upskilling, can break down some of the barriers that limit PWD’s participation in the workforce, the report said.
“PWD are an underestimated resource, with the right policy framework and a supportive environment, PWD have the potential to be productive members of the workforce and contribute to their country’s wealth.”
The digital divide remains and even grows for people with disabilities, a large, frequently overlooked group who represent approximately 15% of the world’s population, the report said, citing UN estimates. More than half of PWD of working age in industrialised countries are unemployed, rising to between 80% and 90% in developing countries. It is important to note too that working age women with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged in labour markets, on account of both their gender and their disability.
The most recent figures show the number of PWD in individual GCC countries ranges from 4.37% of the population in Saudi Arabia to between 1% and 3% for the other member states.
“There is a lack of concrete and consistent data showing the true scale of disabilities across the GCC. What is clear is that PWD faces severe labour market challenges throughout the GCC region.
Randa Bahsoun, Leader at PwC Middle East, said, “Data drives every forward-thinking diversity strategy. We need to understand where we are as a region before taking the next steps.”
Bahsoun added: “GCC countries are well placed to leverage technology in order to transform their labour market while increasing access for PWD and acting as models of best practice for other governments. For this approach to be successful, GCC leaders, policymakers, educators and stakeholders from the public, private and non-profit sectors should collaborate to institutionalise an inclusive ecosystem for people with disabilities, where they can be active and productive whilst ensuring their voices are heard along the way.”
Throughout the report PwC Middle East defines a concrete data centric, people centric and cyclical framework to support the sustainable inclusion of PWD in the workforce and unleash the immense, untapped wealth-creating potential that they have – for themselves, their families and their countries.
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