Access to Employment
*Globally, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed in developing countries. Data of employment and unemployment of persons with disabilities in Malaysia is not publicly available, not disaggregated by gender, age and disability, and not updated regularly.
In Malaysia, data from 2018 reported that approximately 4500 persons with disabilities were working in both public and private sectors. This is approximately 1.4% of the adults with disabilities of working age (320,870) known to the Social Welfare Department’s national disability register in 2018.
Meanwhile, it was reported in 2021 that only 0.35% of employees in the civil service were persons with disabilities, much lower than the policy which targeted 1% quota in the public sector.
Many persons with disabilities work in sheltered workshops, segregated work centres that primarily employ persons with disabilities. Some sheltered workshops also provide independent living skills training and recreational activities to their clients with disabilities. Persons with disabilities working in sheltered workshops usually receive nominal wages that are below the minimum wage.
Although sheltered workshops provide some form of employment to persons with disabilities, they are “highly discouraged by the CRPD Committee because they exclude people with disabilities from the mainstream labour market” (Meanie-Davis & Coe, 2020). Sheltered workshops are also not sustainable in addressing systemic barriers and discrimination of persons with disabilities in open employment.
Barriers to Employment of Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
Persons with disabilities face multiple barriers to employment, and not just during the recruitment and hiring process. Even when persons with disabilities are in employment, they experience difficulties in obtaining work-related training and education. They also have difficulties completing their work duties due to the lack of supportive systems and policies to accommodate their needs.
Some of the common barriers to employment include but are not limited to:
- Inadequate and inaccessible education and skills training for persons with disabilities from the early years, resulting in lower educational level and job-readiness skills.
- Training programmes within employment is not accessible (built environment and content) to persons with disabilities, including on-the-job training and training within industry.
- Lack of training programmes for employers and staff to address discrimination and negative attitudes, and learn disability-inclusive practices.
- Inaccessible workplace buildings and infrastructures, such as lack of step-free access, inaccessible toilets and work stations.
- Lack of understanding of the importance of reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities to perform their work duties and continuing to withhold access, such as enforcing rigid work hours, not providing support to work from home, heavy reliance on spoken communication, etc.
- Societal prejudice, such as the misperception that workers with disabilities are less productive or less qualified, and the misperception that reasonable accommodations give employees with disabilities an unfair advantage over others.
- Disability discrimination in the workplace, including negative evaluation, withholding promotion, disability-based harassment.
- Lack of anti-discrimination legislations and proactive policies to ensure equal opportunities in the employment of persons with disabilities.
- Lack of funding support for employers to make their workplace disability-inclusive and accessible.
- Low salary and a lack of universal basic income.
- Lack of accessible public transportation to commute to work.
- Lack of accessible and affordable housing, which can reduce the quality of life of persons with disabilities and subsequently negatively affect their performance at work.
- Lack of support for personal assistance, which can be vital for some persons with disabilities to perform their work duties successfully.
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
Legislation and Policies – Malaysia
Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (Section 29: Access to Employment)
Dasar Satu Peratus Peluang Pekerjaan Dalam Perkhidmatan Awam Kepada Orang Kurang Upaya (PP 16/2010) (1 Percent Employment in Civil Service for Persons with Disabilities Policy)
Employment Support for Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
Return to Work Programme (RTW) by PERKESO (SOCSO)
Reports and Research Papers – Malaysia
The Challenges and Benefits of Employing Persons with Disabilities: The Japanese Multinational Corporations’ Perspective (Japanese Companies in Malaysia)
Reports and Research Papers – International
Guidelines for Supporting Persons with Disabilities in the Workplace
Creating an accessible and inclusive workplace by IncludeAbility, Australian Human Rights Commission
Workplace Adjustments for Executive Dysfunction by Emma Sharman
Employment Transition Programme Trainer’s Manual by Enabling Academy, Yayasan Gamuda. Available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese