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Workplace Wisdom

Filipino employers’ attitudes toward persons with disabilities

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Will you hire a person with disability (PWD)?

Despite numerous local and international decrees on the acceptance of PWDs in mainstream employment, they still experience various forms of discrimination. Considered as a minority, the treatment they receive results from the attitude employers hold toward them.

Who are PWDs?

The Philippine Magna Carta for Disabled Persons defines disabled persons as “those suffering from restriction or different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.”

Many PWDs belong to the poorest sector of the society and their poverty and disability severely limits their entry into formal employment.

According to separate  reports released by the Philippine National Statistics Office and the Asian Development Bank in 2005, only about 10 to 30 percent of employable PWDs in the country are engaged in regularly paid work. A sizeable 50 percent work in the informal sector, and the rest are homemakers or are dependent on other family members, government aid, and even begging for economic survival.

The study

A survey was conducted in 2011 among 210 employers from various industries in the three regions in Northern Luzon and Central Luzon. The research sought to find factors influencing employment opportunities for PWDs. Results show that employers’ perception of what PWDs can (or cannot) do for the company greatly determines hiring decisions.

The perception of Filipino employers toward PWDs in the workplace can be classified into four categories:

“Negative Stereotype” (low productivity, frequent absenteeism and turnover), “Added Business Value” (image as having positive work ethics, morale booster, company prestige), “Added Cost and Efforts at Management” (additional safety measures, needs closer training and supervision) and

“Social Cost” (negative reactions from customers and co-workers).

Statistical analysis showed that the factor “Added Business Value” proved to be the best predictor for hiring PWDs. The primary and often only consideration of Philippine employers is the positive company image that decisions to hire PWDs will bring to the company.

Organizations that will hire PWDs

Service industries such as hotels, restaurants, spas and salons are most likely to hire PWDs. Small-scale enterprises also showed the most favorable attitude towards employing PWDs. Those with a history of employing PWDs will most likely hire them again; with many of these employers agreeing that PWDs have consistently shown satisfactory work performance in their companies. They also claim to be less worried about the usual cost and management issues associated with hiring PWDs.

It is surprising to note that the education sector, ideally tasked to form the consciousness and attitude of our youth, appeared to be the most apprehensive about the social cost of hiring PWDs. Although schools are expected to be forerunners and advocates of inclusion, there seems to be a need for school owners and leaders to consider exposing its different stakeholders to PWDs. It may help to provide avenues for adequate and appropriate interaction among PWDs and their employees, students, parents and other members of the school community.

Employer preferences

Filipino employers prefer PWDs who are males, are non-college degree holders, have motor disability, and with previous related work experience for “blue-collar” jobs. The work arena for PWDs is largely male-dominated like in mainstream employment, where female PWDs suffer double discrimination because of their gender and because of their handicap. Apparently, businesses in the Philippines also favor PWDs applying for nonprofessional jobs which may explain why employers choose noncollege degree holders over those who have finished higher studies. Moreover, PWDs who have restricted physical movements and prior work experience may find it easier to get jobs in most companies.

What can be done?

The Philippine government guarantees the capacitating and inclusion of PWDs into the mainstream society by stressing the importance of their rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance as stipulated in the Constitution and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

Some of its noteworthy efforts in improving the employment opportunities of PWDs include the development and implementation of training programs in support or in preparation for employment, the allocation of jobs in many government agencies, and the provision of attractive incentives to private entities who will hire PWDs.

In the light of the survey results, organizations are encouraged to engage in efforts to help strengthen the “labor market value” of PWDs by providing training on technical skills, work ethics and socialization skills as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives; ensure that PWDs will be hired in jobs that are commensurate to their qualifications; increase the work prospects for PWDs regardless of gender; and initiate efforts to help improve the attitudes and behaviors of people in the workplace towards PWDs.

(The author is an HR practitioner and part-time faculty at the Psychology Department of Saint Louis University in Baguio City. She and the following HRDM students of SLU completed this study in 2011: James Peign N. Bulahao, Filam Grace G. Boyayao, Michelle M. Cataina, Janice S. Cumilang, Jovie Ann G. Dulnuan and Patricia Paola V. Salaguban. For comments and queries, contact ateneocord@ateneo.edu.)


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