The round table Social Partnership to Improve the Situation with Employment of Disabled was conducted in Moscow on 18 February
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Development, there are about 14.5 million disabled in Russia, i.e. one tenth of the country's population. This means that problems of people with disabilities concern every fourth Russian family. Disabled are entitled for an allowance not exceeding 2000 roubles (US$ 80). Eighty five percent of disabled people in Russia are not employed, while about 45 percent of them are people of working age willing to work and provide for themselves. What can be done to help these people?
Participants of the round table Social Partnership to Improve the Situation with Employment of Disabled tried to answer this question. The discussion was initiated by the UN Representative Office in the RF together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Information Centre, as well as partners - Social Partnership and League of Assistance to Disabled n.a.Y.N.Kiselev. It was a timely discussion taking into account the forthcoming signing and ratification by the Russian Federation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the UN in 2006. On the one hand, it would be good if it happened as soon as possible, on the other hand, problems build up during years of neglecting the needs of disabled can affect the implementation of the Convention provisions. The goal of the round table organizers was to outline these problems and it was not accidental that State Museum - Preodoleniye Humanitarian Centre n.a. Nikolay Ostrovsky was selected as a venue for the round table. The writer, Nikolay Ostrovsky, who lost sight when he was young and was bedridden for most of his life did not give up and became an example for many generations.
UN Resident Coordinator in the RF, Marco Borsotti opened the round table. Iraida Leonova, Director of Social Partnership Centre, and Nelli Salamatina, President of the League of Assistance to Disabled n.a.Y.N.Kiselev, also welcomed the participants.
Elaine Fultz, Director of ILO Subregional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, presented the ILO report "The Right of Disabled for Respected Work". She gave examples of different approaches to the problems of disabled in various countries. For instance, in Sweden the government will provide a wheelchair, but it will not be possible for a disabled person to use it, as public infrastructure and underground are not adjusted to the needs of disabled. In the USA, a disabled person will have to buy a wheelchair himself, but he will be able to go anywhere. Too often government agencies encourage private entrepreneurs to hire disabled people; however, they do not do it themselves. Elaine Fultz's speech provided food for thought to the participants in order to make improvements in the policy in the area of disabled in Russia.
Professor Vladimir Mironov, Head of the Civil Process and Social Areas of Law of RGU of Oil and Gas n.a. I.M.Gubkin, member of the Independent Expert and Legal Council, spoke about legal problems of people with disabilities. These problems can arise even before a person is employed due to insufficient provision of the regulatory base of professional training and start of employment of young people with disabilities. This was noted by Yuri Bausov, Chairman of the Association of Youth Organizations of Disabled, member of the Council on the Issues of Disabled under the Chairman of the Federation Council of RF, Director of IGT MPGPPU.
Deputy of the State Duma of the FA of the RF, member of the Education Committee, Oleg Smolin gave a presentation on "Young Disabled: Possibilities of Education, Qualification and Employment in the Desired Area". "The notion of disability in the Russian legislation is more or less clear today, while the same cannot be said about the notion of "loss of ability to work". As a disabled person continues to work in any event, he is not considered disabled. If a disabled person is involved in employment of any kind, he or she is no longer entitled to any social benefits. Speaking about education, the deputy noted that the most important thing would be to ensure preferential terms for disabled for entering higher education establishments. "Generally speaking, disabled people constitute a significant part of the country's human potential. We should look at the problems of disabled in this light," concluded Oleg Smolin, who had worked as a Duma deputy for 18 years although he is blind.
Georgy Timofeev, Deputy Chairman of Moscow Public Communications Committee, spoke about the efforts of the Moscow Government aimed at helping over one million disabled people living in the capital. "Our principle is as follows: every disabled person who wants to work should have this opportunity," he emphasized.
Other speakers outlined problems that can arise in this area. Mikhail Novikov from ROOI Perspective spoke about the actual situation in the Russian employment market in connection with young disabled people. Professor Marina Savina, Deputy Director of Professional Development Research Institute, described the issues of professional education of young people with disabilities. Vadim Selin, representative of Johnson&Johnson, spoke about practical experience of employing disabled, and, on the basis of his personal experience, the responsibility of disabled people for their own life, the need to comply with high professional requirements of businesses to their employees.
"It would be impossible to create a "society for all" in Russia nor achieve the Millennium Development Goals formulated in the UN Millennium Declaration without the eradication of social and economic inequality facing many disabled in the country," states the final document of the meeting. The participants call for the Russian Government and the State Duma to consider signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a first priority. They also suggested initiating development of a National Action Plan for improvement of the living standards of people with disabilities and conducting an all-Russian forum dedicated to the problems of these people.
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