Experts confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the labor market, as they are among the groups that are most vulnerable to exclusion and discrimination.
This emerged in an online dialogue session held by the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies to discuss “the impact of COVID-19 on the work of people with disabilities in Jordan”, as part of a series of specialized sessions held by Phenix Center in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation on “COVID-19 and the Labor Market”.
The Projects Manager at Phenix Center, Mrs. Duaa Ajarmeh, emphasized the importance of work for people with disabilities and their right to obtain decent work, participate in the economic and social life, and be fully integrated in the society.
Mrs. Ajarmeh pointed out that it is necessary to examine the violations that people with disabilities are subjected to, especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis and its repercussions, in order to guarantee them with access to social justice and protection from violations.
The secretary-general of the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dr. Muhannad al-Azza, stated that people with disabilities are more exposed to dismissal from work than others. Indeed, while they are among the groups most vulnerable to exclusion and discrimination due to the stereotype on their reduced productivity at work, now the COVID-19 exacerbates the challenges that people with disabilities already face.
Dr. Al-Azza emphasized that a package of legislation set out individual and institutional practices that discriminate against people with disabilities and contributed to their exclusion from the labor market. Indeed, the Medical Committees Regulation issued in 1977 stipulated that the applicant that wants to work in the public sector must be physically fit, therefore preventing a large number of people with disabilities from getting these job positions.
On the contrary, Dr. Al-Azza added that the Persons with Disabilities Law issued in 2017 declared that “disability in itself does not constitute a barrier to considering a person healthy for work, education and placement.”
Dr. Al-Azza remarked the need to enforce the law with regard to the employment of people with disabilities in the private sector. Accordingly, the Persons with Disabilities Law and the Article 13 of the Jordanian Labor Law must be applied and the Ministry of Labor’s inspectors should monitor their implementation. Dr. Al-Azza emphasized that creating a system based on decent work does not mean giving priority only to persons with disabilities, but rather guaranteeing them equal access to employment opportunities based on their experience and academic qualifications, and providing fair work conditions.
The director of “I am a Human Society for Rights of People with Disabilities”, Ms. Asya Yaghi, pointed out that there are a number of challenges that people with disabilities face in their search for jobs. The most important are that the majority of business owners do not believe in the capabilities of persons with disabilities, and they do not provide them with the necessary supporting devices in the workplace due to their high cost. She also added that the work conditions of people with disabilities have been deteriorating due to negative attitudes of their families, who tend to keep them at home, the increased fear of COVID-19 for the health conditions of persons with disabilities, and the decreased wages due to the COVID-19 crisis in the labor market which led to lack of job security and stability.
The Head of the Central Employment Directorate at the Ministry of Labor, Dr. Own Al-Nahar, confirmed that the Ministry of Labor has prepared a draft for the employment system of persons with disabilities to ensure the activation of Article 13 of the Jordanian Labor Law and Article 25 of the Persons with Disabilities Law. Accordingly, the ministry encouraged employers in the private sector to find suitable placement for people with disabilities, employing them through the procedures that the Ministry will soon launch.
Finally, the participants in the session emphasized that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges that persons with disabilities face in the labor market due to the shutdown of many small projects in which persons with disabilities work, especially in the tourism sector and income-generating projects such as handicrafts and others.