An interesting task landed on my desk six months ago. I was asked to draw up a cross-administrative report at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment on the barriers to employment that persons with disabilities in Finland face. The assignment was unique in that previous administrative work on disability policy in Finland or elsewhere has not, as far as we know, included a similar perspective on employment.
Now that the report has seen the light of day, it is time to take action to create an equal labour market. The report proposes concrete changes to, for example, disability and employment services and the development of accessibility legislation. One important aspect I would like to highlight is the change in attitudes.
Better attitudes and accessibility
Some employers may still hold sceptical attitudes and prejudices concerning the recruitment of persons with disabilities. That is why persons with disabilities feel that they should not mention their disability in the application if they wish to be interviewed for the job. However, if the job advertisement does not contain information about accessibility, for example, contacting the employer in advance becomes a necessity.
The labour market of the future cannot afford to exclude anyone.
Including accessibility data in job advertisements would send a message that the labour market is open to all skilled applicants regardless of disability. By making the current state of accessibility more visible, we can increase the will and understanding to develop it. The labour market of the future cannot afford to exclude anyone.
Away with separate disability policy
One of the key messages in the report is that disability policy should break out of its silo and become part of all policy. This would lead to a situation in which people with disabilities no longer bear the stamp of specificity. People with disabilities are not just recipients of services, but also employees, students and citizens like all others.
A good example is the accessibility of work places. A well-functioning environment benefits everyone, but for people with disabilities it really determines whether they can act as full members of society.
The public sector has the opportunity to lead the way and set an example in developing accessibility and recruitment practices as well as other measures presented in the report.
Anni Kyröläinen, Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment