Persons with disabilities excluded in job market – report

County government does not see people with disability as capable workers, those interviewed said.

In Summary
  • “Tenders are not given to us though they say we should be given 30 per cent they just give to the able-bodied,” said a respondent.
  • According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, 918,270 people aged 5 years and above had a disability.
Some of the beneficiaries of free assistive and mobility devices under the 'Niko Fiti' campaign in Trans Nzoia county on November 2, 2023
Some of the beneficiaries of free assistive and mobility devices under the 'Niko Fiti' campaign in Trans Nzoia county on November 2, 2023

Kenya’s economy is missing out on a rich-but largely untapped- source of talent, persons with disabilities, a new report indicates.

The report titled Global Labor Program, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Analysis shows that the employment rate for people with disabilities in Kenya is just partly 1 per cent.

This affects all sectors right from the national government, county governments and even the private sector.

“Excluding people with disabilities from the world of work is expensive. It can cost a country between 3 and 7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product a year in labour market losses,” the report reads.

Globally, this adds up to about $6 trillion annually, according to a Sightsavers analysis of World Bank and International Labour Organisation data.

Sightsavers is an international charity working to prevent avoidable blindness, support equality for people with disabilities and advocate for change.

The report is a product of a field study commissioned by the Kenya Female Advisory Development Organization (KEFEADO) and Sightsavers.

Other partners included the Global Labor Program (GLP)-Inclusive Futures (IF) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) coming in as a funder of the study.

The study was commissioned in May 2022 and carried out in Kisumu, Homa Bay and Nairobi counties.

Qualitative and quantitative data was collected from the field through questionnaires.

The study targeted respondents with and without disabilities.

The study found that people with disabilities still face significant barriers to work.

This included discrimination in hiring and promotion, unreasonable expectations about their productivity and a lack of accessible technology and support.

Respondents narrated the difficulty with which public employment under the county government frameworks has been made difficult, especially for the persons with disabilities category.

“County government does not see people with disability as capable workers. They see us as weak and unable to work. That’s why today getting employment at the county is very difficult for a PWD,” narrated one of the responded

“Tenders are not given to us though they say we should be given 30 per cent... they just give to the able-bodied.... when we apply, we are not even shortlisted even when we meet all the requirements.”

Other than formal employment, respondents said persons with disabilities face certain challenges at workplace which make them discriminated against, incur extra costs and even receive less pay.

“We face a lot of challenges, for example, I work in a hotel to earn an additional income but I cannot work like the others who do not have a disability. So, in the evening I am paid less than others...by my boss, which is very discouraging and demeaning to me as a person with disabilities,” another respondent said.

Respondents suggested that their conditions could be improved, and more development opportunities availed to them if stakeholders understood their needs as defined by the type of value chain they work, as well as the nature of their vulnerabilities, that is, people with disabilities, minorities, and the marginalized.

65 per cent of the respondents indicated that they are not represented in leadership roles in their places of work, with only about 23 per cent answering the question in the affirmative.

This lack of representation in leadership positions may explain why employers have been reluctant to put into work existing positive laws and practices.

“With respect to women with disabilities, women can hardly be found in leadership positions even for groups that comprise persons with disabilities alone as leadership positions are taken up by their male counterparts that have a disability,” the report reads.

According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, 918,270 people aged five years and above had a disability (2.2 per cent of the total population), with more women (523,883) than men (394,330) having disabilities.

The 2019 census, placed the highest prevalence rates of disability in central, eastern, and western parts of Kenya: with Embu (4.4 per cent), Homa Bay (4.3 per cent), Makueni (4.1 per cent), Siaya (4.1 per cent) and Kisumu counties (4 per cent).

According to the global trend in labour rights, research indicates that women, people with disabilities and youth are largely identified as being at greater risk of lower, or unfavourable, participation in labour markets worldwide.

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) however envisions the country as an inclusive state and guarantees the right to equality for all its citizens.

The report also notes that representation of women and persons with disabilities remains minimal in the country.  

It says women elected or appointed to office face limits on their ability to influence decisions and often are subject to harassment and gender-based political violence.  

The report notes that men still dominate public leadership roles and elected offices, despite efforts to legislate specific quotas reserved for women’s participation in political leadership and other positions in public spaces.

“At the national level, women occupy 23 per cent of the National Assembly and Senate and 33 per cent of the Cabinet,” the report reads.

The report found legal reform is needed in Kenya to ensure people with disabilities are not discriminated against in employment. 

Also needed, the report says, is active advocacy to ensure more people are aware of the rights of persons with disabilities.

The study found that the majority of the respondents (67.2 per cent) were unaware of the relevant laws that should protect their rights as people with disability, women, minorities, and other marginalized categories of respondents.

Only 33 per cent were aware of such laws. Approximately 19.5 per cent of people with disability are aware of policies and laws that promote and protect their rights.

Those who are aware of the laws, policy and practices promoting and protecting their rights cited articles of the constitution that talks about disability; particularly Articles 27,54 and 81.

They also demonstrate knowledge of Kenya’s Disability Act of 2020.

The study further established that a significant number (37.9 per cent) of people without disability are not aware of laws and practices related to persons with disabilities.  Of these, 22 per cent were women, while 15.9 per cent were men.

“This brings out the gender inequality in access to information relating to laws promoting and protecting persons with disabilities,” the report reads.

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