ILR School

Disability in the Workplace in China: Situation Assessment

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A compelling argument can be made that employment of people with disabilities should be gaining recognition as an underutilized weapon in the talent wars of Asia. One has only to look at the proportion of people with disabilities that make up our communities, the continuing employment disparities that people with disabilities continue to face and the resulting high levels of poverty for this population – up against the talent shortages in fast-growth markets across the region. As China’s skewed demographic dynamics become increasingly apparent, resulting in a rapidly aging population and a diminishing supply of workforce entrants, an increasing share of the workforce will include older employees with disabilities, necessitating a fundamental change in workplace practices involving people with disabilities, as well as a greater need to look at persons with disabilities as a potential source of talent. Although China has created a broad legislative framework to protect the right to work for persons with disabilities, it lacks specificity and clear measures of enforcement, as evidenced in continued employment marginalization, poor educational outcomes, and thus higher poverty levels of persons with disabilities. To further understanding of workforce inclusion of persons with disabilities in China, and to identify practical ways forward for employers, The Conference Board China Center and the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability (YTI) at Cornell University’s ILR School partnered to explore how companies can tap the talent pool of people with disabilities and improve their employment outcomes. The scope of the research encompassed a series of interviews with disability rights-focused NGOs in China, a detailed literature review, a comprehensive review of China’s regulatory framework supporting employment for persons with disabilities, and a detailed assessment of the demographics of disability and the status of people with disabilities in China such as prevalence rates, access to education, employment disparities and resulting poverty and household income rates. This report draws from the broader research findings and provides business practitioners with an overview of the current situation, challenges, and root causes of employment barriers for persons with disabilities in China. To complement this work, The China Center and YTI convened a practitioner roundtable in Beijing in September 2018. Participants explored in detail how the official, publicly available data on living and working conditions of persons with disabilities compare to actual experiences of employers in China, whether companies are actively recruiting disabled workers, what the internal and external obstacles are to recruitment, and what the impact of the government quota system is, for good or for bad. A separate report on this roundtable is also available

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disability; international; china; employment; hiring; recruiting; accessibility; human resources


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