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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 36-41

Factors influencing employment and employability for persons with disability: Insights from a City in South India

South Asia Center for Disability Inclusive Development and Research (SACDIR), a Center of Excellence under the Aegis of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Hyderabad, Telangana

Date of Web Publication13-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Srikrishna S Ramachandra
IIPHH, ANV Arcade, Plot No. 1, Amar Co-op Society, Kavuri Hills, Madhapur, Hyderabad - 500 033, Telangana

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoem.IJOEM_44_16

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Background: There is a lack of evidence on barriers faced by persons with disability in accessing employment opportunities in India. Aim: This study was undertaken to ascertain both employee and employer perceptions on barriers existing among Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled sectors to employ persons with disabilities. Materials and Methods: Two hundred participants from six IT/IT-enabled sector organizations were included in the study; study was conducted at Hyderabad, India. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to the participants. Results: Physical access to and within the worksite was highlighted as a concern by 95% of respondents. Majority perceived that communication, attitude of people, discrimination, harassment at work place, and information were critical barriers. Only 3.8% of employers were aware that their company had a written policy on employing persons with disabilities. Employers stated that commitment and perseverance were important facilitators among persons with disabilities. Conclusions: Evidence from this study will help in planning need-based employment for persons with disabilities.

Keywords: Attitude, employment, India, legislation, persons with disability

How to cite this article:
Ramachandra SS, Murthy G V, Shamanna B R, Allagh KP, Pant HB, John N. Factors influencing employment and employability for persons with disability: Insights from a City in South India. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2017;21:36-41

How to cite this URL:
Ramachandra SS, Murthy G V, Shamanna B R, Allagh KP, Pant HB, John N. Factors influencing employment and employability for persons with disability: Insights from a City in South India. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Aug 14];21:36-41. Available from:

  Introduction Top

There are an estimated 70 million persons with disabilities in India, of whom only about 0.1% are employed currently in industries.[1] The International Labour Organization's 2011 report on Persons with Disability (PWD) states that 73.6% of disabled in India are still outside the labour force.[2] Currently, available evidence shows that lack of employment opportunities is a significant problem, which causes concern among working-age adults with disability.[3] In many countries it is observed that PWD are more likely to be unemployed compared to persons without a disability.[4],[5],[6],[7] This is despite the fact that most jobs can be performed equally well by PWD.[8] However, myths exist that PWDs are unable to work and that accommodating a PWD in the workplace is expensive.[9]

The current literature on disability and employment from India shows that PWDs have lower employment rates compared to the general population. In 2002, among all the working age PWDs (15–64 years) in India, 37.6% were employed with significant variations among sub-groups.[10] The 2001 Census of India [11] showed that more than a third of the males with disability and more than two-third of women with disability aged 15 to 59 years were found to be non-workers (not economically productive) as against 19% of males and 60% of females among the general population. Similar results were also observed by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) Survey (2002), which estimated that only 25% of the disabled population was employed. Gender comparison showed that 36% of males compared to 10% of females with disability were employed and these differences were statistically significant.[12]

The employment prospects for women with disability are even more of a challenge compared to men with disability.[13] The World Health Organization (WHO) observed that employment rates were lower for men with disability (53%) compared to men without a disability (65%) and similarly rates for women with disability (20%) compared to women without a disability (30%).[14] Persons with intellectual impairment report lowest employment rates.

The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) reported that the average percentage of employment of persons with disabilities in India was 0.54% in the public sector, 0.28% in the private sector, and 0.05% in multinational companies.[15] For a country like India which is a growing economy, the low rate of employment of persons with disability will be a critical determinant of growth.[16]

The Government of India has enacted laws that support the employment of PWD. The PWD Act, 1995 spells out responsibilities of the government at all the levels including establishments under its control.[15] The Act also provides employment incentives for public and private sector companies that have at least 5% of their workforce comprising of PWD.[17]

Many people with disabilities want to work, but face employment barriers that have resulted in dismal employment rates. Successfully employed persons with disabilities have valuable experience that can help others seeking employment.[18] There is a paucity of such evidence in India about the barriers and facilitators of employment for PWD in different industries.

The present study was conducted in Hyderabad, India, to ascertain the employee and employer barriers existing among Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled Sectors (ITES) to employ PWD. The study also documented enabling factors that have facilitated employment of PWD. An assessment of awareness levels among employers and employees with disabilities on the provisions of the Indian PWD Act (1995) was also undertaken.

  Materials and Methods Top

The study was conducted in IT and ITES organizations in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. A list of companies employing PWD in Hyderabad was compiled by collecting information from various stakeholders who facilitate employment for PWD. Organizations were stratified by their size. Organizations with less than 100 employees were designated as small units, while those with employee strength of 100–300 were designated as medium-sized units and those with more than 300 employees were labelled as large IT/ITES units. Since none of the public sector IT/ITES establishments in Hyderabad employed PWD, the study only included private companies. Two small, two medium, and two large IT/ITES were included in the study.

The human resource department and departments concerned with recruitment and staff welfare at the six identified companies were also contacted and views ascertained for the employer perspectives on enabling factors for employment of PWD.

A semi-structured questionnaire was prepared in consultation with various stakeholders, including PWD working in the corporate sector, employer representatives, academicians, and program managers dealing with disability programs. The questionnaire included questions on employee and employer perceptions on barriers and facilitators to employment for PWDs. In case the employee did not want to be interviewed personally, the same was web enabled as a questionnaire with an anonymous response. The questionnaire looked at the individual impairment, social, economic and information barriers, and ascertained information about the knowledge and awareness levels with respect to the PWD Act in India, 1995, which is still in existence at the time this research was conducted.

Written informed consent was obtained from all the participants of the study. A pilot study was conducted at one of the companies, employing 15 PWDs. This company's data was not included in the analysis.

Data analysis was done and outputs presented as descriptive, thematic, and inferential analysis. Mean values and tests of association were calculated to assess statistical significance.

Ethical clearance

Ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Ethics Committee of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad. Permission was also sought from the Human Resources or employee administration departments of the participating organizations.

  Results Top

A total of 200 participants (147 PWD and 53 employers from 6 work places) were included in the study.

Employee perspectives

A total of 147 employees participated in the study. Two-thirds of the employees (N = 98) interviewed were male. Majority (95%) of the respondents were educated to atleast the undergraduate level (N = 139). The IT companies included in the study only employed persons with physical impairment; hence, all our respondents were physically impaired and 91.2% (N = 134) of these impairments were present since birth. All of them had only a single impairment.

Overall, 72% (N = 106) employees with disability stated that their impairment had a mild effect on their activities for daily living. Only six percent (N = 6) of the male participants felt that they needed help in their activities of daily life, while none of the female participants felt so. However, 85% (N = 125) of the participants reported a difficulty in walking due to the physical impairment.

About a three quarter (72.8%) of the employees declared their impairment at the time of their interview. Ninety per cent of the employees (N = 48) reported that the potential employers made reasonable adjustments to facilitate their job interview and after their employment. The employees with disability did not face any discrimination or prohibition during the selection process.

Some of the barriers faced by the employees at the current workplace included lack of physical access to and within the worksite; communication and information barriers, and lack of training opportunities. Attitude of people at workplace was perceived as a major barrier, as they felt that if people did not have a positive attitude to PWD, it may result in discrimination and low self-esteem at the work place [Table 1].
Table 1: Comparison of perceived barriers to employment among employers and employees

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Even though 75% of the employees with disability agreed that their work place was accessible to persons with special needs, 30% (N = 44) of them felt that they were not provided adequate training on how to use those facilities.

None of the employees with special needs felt any discrimination at the time of recruitment but 90% of the employees felt that discrimination and harassment at the work place could potentially be a serious barrier.

Employer perspectives

Fifty-three employer representatives participated in the study. Among the employers, 89% (N = 47) reported of having some PWD employed in their section/department.

The major barriers reported by employers were access to and within workplace, harassment and discrimination at work, and lack of positive attitude towards PWDs [Table 1].

Over 90% (N = 48) of the employers stated that they encouraged applications for all positions from PWDs. However, only 3.8% (N = 2) of the employers were aware that their company had a written policy on employing PWDs and less than half of the employers knew about the different provisions of the PWD Act 1995.

Some of the benefits stated by the employers of hiring PWDs were that, they are highly motivated individuals and by employing persons with special needs, they as employers, have a wider range of applicants for job vacancies with diverse skills and perspectives. It also benefits the organisation brand and adds to the organisational learning [Table 2].
Table 2: Benefits of employing persons with disability as perceived by the employer

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Comparison: Employer versus employee domain

There were differences in perceptions of the employers and employees regarding the positive benefits that would accrue by employing PWD [Table 3].
Table 3: Comparison of perceptions of employees with disability and employers on disability issues

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Both employees with disabilities and employers were asked about their awareness of legislations which affect employment of PWDs. Salient comparisons between the two domains showed that, only in relation to the need for organizations to report to a special employment exchange with information about vacancies that have occurred or are about to occur in the establishment, there were statistically significant differences (χ2-7.22; P = 0.007); there were no other statistically significant differences.

Both the employees with disabilities as well as the employer representatives had poor awareness regarding carry forward of vacancies that are reserved for PWD to the next round of interviews if a suitable candidate with disability could not be recruited. Both groups were equally conversant with the law providing 3% reservations for PWDs.

  Discussion Top

Persons with disability view employment as a means of expressing their worth in a society which places barriers in their path both for education as well as for employment opportunities. Work is perceived as meaningful and important in their lives.[19] Studies show that work is viewed as a source of identity, feelings of normality, financial support, and socialization by persons across different types of disability.[19] Employment status is also related to health and quality of life among PWDs.[20] Employment, even at low levels, was associated with better health and health behaviors as well as lower costs.[20] Studies also show that employment opportunities are not equitable when it comes to PWDs.[5] Studies provide evidence that PWDs face more barriers to employment compared to persons without a disability.[20],[21] This is true for economically developed countries like Sweden as well.[22] Women with disability are further disadvantaged in the job market as they have a higher risk of having a job that is below their educational level than men at the same educational level, indicating discriminating mechanisms in the society related to gender and ability.[21],[22],[23] Even in the US, though PWD account for 20% of the population, they comprise only 3% of the workforce.[24] The situation in low and middle income countries like India is even worse. Even though the Government of India has mandated that 3% of the jobs in the public sector should be earmarked for PWDs only 0.54% of all jobs in the public sector were filled by PWDs, while in the private sector it is even lower at 0.28%.[25] In the private sector in India, it has been seen that 73% of these companies did not have a policy in place for employing PWDs.[15]

There are several challenges for PWD to enter the job market. Some of the important factors reported in India include lack of education and training, lack of financial resources, nature of work place, and attitudes of employers.[15] The levels of education as well as physical barriers to accessing work have been highlighted in other countries also.[23] However, the primary determinant of employment is the attitudes of the employers. PWDs have consistently raised the concern that the attitudes of employers and peers at the work place have a strong influence on their interest to work. The experiences of PWD who are successfully employed help in identifying the critical barriers and factors, which facilitate employment. Studies have documented that PWD perceive that they need to work harder to get a job compared to those without a disability.[5] Available evidence shows that PWD can perform satisfactorily in a large number of jobs and that to allow this to happen, there is an urgent need to dismantle the barriers to employment.[8] In dismantling these barriers, it is important to tackle the negative mindset of prospective employers. Evidence documents that even in high income countries, employers are not convinced about PWDs as reliable and productive employees.[26] Focus group discussion with senior managers found that for both small- and mid-sized companies, there was a belief that PWDs could not do the work or were somehow less qualified. For large companies, convincing departmental and team managers that, employing workers with disabilities would be a worthwhile hiring practice remains a challenge.[27]

The attitudes of employers also differ between countries and this is likely to be influenced by the local context and environmental exposure in a country. A trans-national study observed that employers from Beijing were less likely to endorse hiring PWDs compared with those from Chicago and Hong Kong.[28] It is also seen that the type of disability strongly influences the prospect of employment.[29] People with psychiatric illnesses, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, and chronic disabling health conditions like epilepsy have lower probability of being considered by an employer.[6],[7],[28],[30],[31],[32]

The present study included PWD in the IT and ITES industries in a metropolitan area in India. The IT industry needs a rigorous work ethos and the educational status of most of the respondents is at the higher end of the spectrum. Therefore, findings from the present study help in benchmarking the needs and aspirations of both persons with disabilities who seek employment and the potential employers who need guidance on how to effectively provide for PWDs in their organizations. The positive experiences and the concerns shared by PWDs in the present study need to be documented and shared with potential employers to sensitize them to the needs of PWD. At the same time, it is important that placement agencies be established catering exclusively to the needs of PWD and the lessons learnt from the present study be used to develop a resource kit for sensitizing PWDs to the expectations and demands of specific employers. Unless both groups of stakeholders are targeted, tangible progress in increasing employment rates for PWD in meaningful and treasured jobs is not possible. Active participation of PWD in technical and managerial positions and high-end jobs will reduce the stigma around capabilities of persons with disability and lead to sustainable development where equity and universality are assured.

  Conclusions Top

This study provides an insight on the barriers that PWDs face during their employment in the IT and ITES. The study showed that there were significant differences in the perceptions of employers and employees on certain barriers to employment. There is still a huge gap to be covered in the implementation of the existing disability laws in the country, especially in relation to reservations of jobs for PWDs and awareness of the provisions of the PWD Act 1995. The results provide an opportunity to develop advocacy and resource material to bridge the gap between PWDs and potential employers in the IT/ITES in India.

Organizations/institutions should adopt a more proactive and planned approach towards employment of PWDs. Further studies in this area are needed to identify barriers and perspectives in different sectors, such that the workplace for PWD can be made more accessible and disabled friendly.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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