On the 16th of February 2021, the Inclusive Labour Market Alliance (ILMA) organised the Policy Webinar “EU role in ensuring Inclusive Labour Market in Europe,” in which European policymakers were called upon to take active steps towards making the labour market recovery more inclusive, particularly for persons with disabilities. There is a need for coordinated, ambitious and targeted action at European level to create inclusive employment opportunities for all, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected persons with disabilities and other groups in vulnerable situations, especially in times of high unemployment. Sectors employing many persons with disabilities, such as in catering, tourism and laundry services, were particularly hit by the crisis. Social support services often were not considered essential and could not continue their operations during the lockdowns. In many countries, new opportunities for persons with disabilities are now very much at a standstill. Low employment and activity rates of persons with disabilities indicate an untapped talent for ensuring sustainable growth and development. Removing barriers to employment would allow employers to access this diverse labour force.
The Inclusive Labour Market Alliance (ILMA) has developed a joint statement calling on the EU to ensure that every citizen has the right to decent work in an open and inclusive labour market. Specifically, the Alliance called on the policy makers to:
- Incentivise innovation in building an inclusive labour market,
- Boost the generation of opportunities for people with more support needs in the mainstream labour market,
- Support employers, and especially small and medium sized employers, to encourage the co-production of policies based on the active involvement of persons with support needs,
- Stimulate the growth of knowledge, research and data all aimed to enhancing employment options,
- Work with member states to foster the re-engineering of social protection systems to genuinely protect all workers as well as open new opportunities,
- Support the creation of a facilitating ecosystem for support services with sustainable funding, stable legal frameworks and structural involvement of all stakeholders at both EU and national level.
In his opening statement, Mr. Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), noted “As the EU is rolling out its recovery plan, it is important to ensure that this recovery is inclusive. Persons with disabilities should not be left behind the green and digital transition and made a full part of it.”
Ms. Sophie Cluzel, French Secretary of State in charge of People with Disabilities stated: “EU must propose a framework to allow each country to develop their employment systems. We must develop supported employment and job coaching. There is a need to measure the progress in employment & training of persons with disabilities and to improve common indicators”
Keynote speaker Mr. Stefan Tromel, ILO Senior Disability Specialist noted, “We need to look at quality of jobs, not just jobs created. Closer work is needed with SMEs to ensure they can employ more persons with disabilities”.
Mr. Jose Gusmao, MEP added, “Employment is a cornerstone of the independent life paradigm. We need more significant funding for this type of paradigm”. Speaking of ESF+, he added that funds for employment of persons with disabilities need to be specifically earmarked.
Director for Social Affairs of DG Employment, Ms. Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, supported the calls towards inclusive labour market by stating that inclusion is a “big player” in ESF+ but also in other upcoming EU initiatives, such as the EU Disability Strategy and the Child Guarantee.
MEP Katrin Langensiepen stressed that the EU should play a role in making data on disability topics available and harmonised across Member States.
Mr. Bruno Ribeiro Barata, Counsellor of Employment and Social Affairs at the Permanent Representation of Portugal also added that the Portuguese presidency aims to give concrete meaning to the European Pillar of Social Rights. As part of this, they will invite Member States to implement the upcoming European Disability Strategy in the Council Conclusions they will develop.
ILMA is an informal network established by the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE), the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR), the European Union for Supported Employment (EUSE) and Workability International.
Note to editors
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 17,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.
For more information please contact:
EASPD Operations Manager
EASPD Policy Manager