Jobseekers with disabilities are being left out of both economic planning and financial support as Bangladesh builds back from the Covid-19 pandemic fallout, says a new report.
The Labour Market Assessment 2021 report published by Inclusive Futures said cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) are seen as central to Bangladesh’s economic development in the 8th Five Year Plan.
But the draft SME policy 2019 makes no mention of disability either in terms of employment in SMEs or potential job creators as entrepreneurs, it said.
Sightsavers Bangladesh Country Director Amrita Rejina Rozario said it is critical that people with disabilities are not left out of plans to strengthen the economy.
“The value they can bring as jobseekers and entrepreneurs is immense. Many already have the skills they need but are still finding barriers to joining the workforce,” she said.
“As our economy moves more towards digital and distance-based employment, there is no reason people with disabilities cannot be included.”
The very effective Covid-19 response packages did a great job in recovering the economy but were accessible mainly by large businesses, the report said.
SMEs as well as cottage and micro businesses struggled to access the much smaller pots of support because that was distributed through banks as government’s pre-financed loans rather than non-government organisation (NGO) microfinance systems. Micro and cottage businesses of people with and without disabilities particularly have better access to NGO microfinance systems.
On a positive note, the Bangladesh government introduced a 5 per cent income tax rebate for a 10 per cent representation of people with disabilities in a company's workforce. But this currently has limited awareness among employers and does not attract many of them.
Amrita said, “We know the barriers businesses face when it comes to employing people with disabilities. Considering the concerns about how it would work, it perhaps feels too much to deal with when you just want to fill a position.
“But they are missing a trick. There is an untapped workforce out there with the skills businesses are looking for. We just need to open our minds to open those doors.”
Inclusive Futures is a flagship disability development inclusion programme funded by UK aid. It brings together global leaders and specialists from 16 organisations to test and deliver innovations for people with disabilities in education, healthcare, and livelihoods.