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The problem people with a disability face in the job market

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Another interview, another panel of people asking you questions, you ‘ve prepared for that interview for a week,  you know how to answer the questions by heart, all you need to do is to show up and win them over, that’s all.

But do you know that less than 50% of the people with a disability in the EU are employed, according to the last research made in 2011 by Eurostat?  Or that there is a wide discrepancy between the percentage of people with basic difficulties and minor work limitations?

According to the data available, half of the people with disabilities of working age are not employed and they are not economically active within the EU. There are many reasons why this is the case, but the fact remains that half of the population with a basic or high level of disability are unemployed. The statistics further indicate that the main reason for leaving a job is an issue related to a person's disability, with 30% of people with a disability aged between 15 and 44 years old admitting to leaving a job due to their illness or disability. The second most common reason is temporary employment, with their contracts ending.

In regards to employment patterns, the percentage of disabled people working from home is 2% higher than the people without disabilities in the EU. Exceptions to this pattern are Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Slovenia, and Slovakia. Moreover, in regards to full–time employment versus part-time work, in the EU the people with basic disabilities are more likely to work part-time than others (the gap is around 8%).

Regarding the work environment, the percentage of people with working limitations caused by a longstanding health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty (LHPAD) across the union varies from country to country. For example, the top three countries with highest numbers are Romania (75%), Hungary (74%), and Poland (72%) respectively, followed by the UK (68%). 

Lack of suitable job opportunities is another factor which plays a crucial role and the statistics vary again depending on each individual country and specifications. However, over 50% of the disabled people in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia indicated this as a major setback according to Eurostat. Another factor is a lack of suitable qualifications or experience, which is indicated by 25% in Bulgaria, Austria, and Finland.

The statistics indicate that almost 50% of the people with an activity limitation due to illness and disability cannot afford even one week of holiday, because they struggle financially to cover their basic needs. The trend is significantly worse in the Eastern European countries, especially in Romania (82%), Croatia (80%), Bulgaria (79%) and Hungary. The lowest figures for people who can't afford holiday are present in Iceland, Switzerland and Norway (around 15%).  Consequently, almost half of the people with limited activity cannot afford unexpected financial expenses in relation to personal and domestic matters.

According to Scope, the number of disabled people in the UK is 13.3 million (around six million of them are in working age group) while three and half million of them are in employment. Moreover, the chance of a disabled job applicant being rejected is twice as high as a non-disabled applicant according to the Labour Force Survey posted in Scope.

But these are only the statistics, in reality, the situation can be somewhat different. I can vouch for that as I am a person with a physical disability myself and things are rarely, if ever, in black and white. There are many prejudices and misunderstandings around the idea of someone with a disability being successful, seeking work and being economically and socially independent.

It is this which makes many people with disability worry, even if they are young, talented and as capable of a job as anyone else. Yet despite their skills and capabilities, many are petrified by the idea that they will not be able to make ends meet, that they will be a burden to their families, and last but not least, that they will not be able to make their contribution to society and feel valued for the work they do.

And it should not be that way. People with an illness or disability have so much potential, they just need a chance to show it.

Of course, everyone has limitations, depending on everyone’s condition and specifications. That’s why it is important to be upfront from the start in regards to your limitations or your health condition. Believe it or not, there are many people who will not have heard about your disability or they have only a limited knowledge of it. It is essential that you to speak up about it, in order to eliminate any uncertainty surrounding your condition and make it clear what you can and can’t do. 

One way you can do this is by asking the panel if they have any questions about your disability, or are at all familiar with it, at the end of your job interviews. That way you can open the discussion on the topic, make them aware that you are comfortable to discuss it, and dispel any stereotypes or misunderstandings they may have.

During my last interview, I was asked what is my definition of success. As humbly as I could, I answered that to be successful today means to be appreciated for who you are and what you do. To give as much as you can and to receive gratitude in response to that, and to be able to pursue your goals because they keep you moving, they give you hope and direction in what to do in your life and how to fulfil your potential.

Not every time is the gift of sympathy enough, nor is help always enough either. Sometimes we need a bit of opportunity, a bit of chance to do our best in order to grow, to become stronger, more proud of who we are, and to become more independent.

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