Train the disabled to turn them into resources
People with disabilities should be trained in a proper way so that they can become resources for the country, speakers said at a discussion yesterday.
“The disabled should be trained as per the requirements of the workplace. Those who will employ the physically challenged will also receive assistance,” said Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar.
“As a government employee, I can say that there have been a lot of changes in people’s mindset towards employing the physically challenged.”
He spoke at a roundtable on creating a disabled-friendly workplace at garment factories, at the office of the daily Prothom Alo in Dhaka.
The vernacular daily organised the seminar in association with the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) and Germany's agency for international cooperation GIZ.
According to the World Disability Report, published by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank in 2011, about twenty million people in Bangladesh are living with a disability.
If the rights of the physically challenged are not respected, additional taxes against the companies have to be imposed as punishment, said Nafisur Rahman, director of the National Forum of Organisations Working with the Disabled. CDD Executive Director AHM Noman Khan said about 50 lakh physically challenged people can be turned into a workforce.
“There is no difference between an able-bodied and a disabled person. It is now a reality.”
AH Aslam Sunny, vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said: “Workers with a disability are usually skilled and do not have a tendency to switch jobs.”
CDD Director Nazmul Bari, who presented the keynote, said the disabled account for 15 percent of the total population of developing countries.
“From that perspective, the number of disabled people is very high in our country. If we can't integrate them into the workforce, it will cost us 3 to 7 percent of our gross domestic product.”
The loss will be about $1 billion, he said.
At the discussion, speakers said there has been a change in the mindset of garment factory owners, and the disabled are working efficiently in some factories.
They said there is a huge opportunity in the garment sector, which needs to create jobs for several lakh people in order to take their export incomes to $50 billion by 2021.
Md Nasir Uddin, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said steps have to be taken to improve the skills of the disabled.
Garment makers are also working independently for the disabled, he added. For example, Keya Group has 850 disabled people working for them while the number of the physically challenged at Beximco Fashions is 576.
Garment makers such as Fakhruddin, Fakir and Givenci have also created employment opportunities for the disabled, said Nasir Uddin.
Sunny of the BKMEA said a decision has already been taken to recruit 1 percent of the workers from the disabled population.
ABM Khorshed Alam, chief executive of the National Skills Development Council, said a database on the skills of the disabled is urgently needed.
“It should remain open to the employers so they can recruit them when required.”
Md Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, additional inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, said keeping aside 5 percent of the jobs for the disabled is mandatory for government offices. “But there is no such quota for private companies.”
Disabled Peoples International's Vice Chairman Osman Khaled is a deaf-mute. He gave a speech with the help of CDD official Sheikh Mohammad Faisal Hossain.
Osman said it has to be ensured that the disabled do not receive lower wages or salaries than their able counterparts.
Kishore Kumar Singh, senior skills development specialist of the International Labour Organisation, said Bangladesh is ahead of many countries when it comes to the issue of working for the disabled.
Bettina Schmidt, senior consultant of GIZ Bangladesh, called for making a decision on which disabled people will be trained on which trade.