Economic independence of women with disabilities (WWDs) is instrumental to their empowerment in true sense. WWDs are systematically excluded from the mainstream workforce and misleadingly projected as a burden on the society. Exclusion of WWDs from mainstream labour force is a reality which needs to be addressed urgently.
Some of the hurdles that come in the way of WWDs accessing and availing work/employment opportunities may be identified as follows:
- Stereotypes: Stereotypes frame WWDs as unable to fulfill either the traditional role of homemaker or the newer role of wage earners. Due to the double stereotyping, they are denied work even in the areas traditionally occupied by women, like nursing, teaching etc. due to the fact of disability, they are thought of as asexual for jobs like secretary, receptionist, models etc. At the same time, they are denied jobs traditionally occupied by males and are thought as sexual and lacking intelligence.
- Unequal opportunity
- Lack of education
- Lack of accessibility
- Discriminative attitude towards WWDs
- Absence of representation of WWDs in decision making agencies 1.1 Work- The available statistics reveals that the status of WWDs in labour force confirms that
- 62% PwDs in rural areas and 64% in urban areas are out of labour force; where as in case of WWDs, 89% in rural area and 91% in urban area are missing from the labour force
- Among the employed with disabilities, 36% were seen to be men where as WWDSS consisted of only 10%. These proportions are seen higher in rural areas in comparison with urban areas. A visible gap has also been observed between men with disabilities (MWD) and women with disabilities.
- In general, 55% MWD and 60% WWDs were working in the primary sector- showing labour imbalance against WWDSS.
- Lesser proportion of WWDs in secondary (16%) and tertiary (22%) sectors as compared to MWD’s proportions of 17% and 28% respectively As per the data available with Population Census (2001) more than one third (36%) MWDs and more than two- third (68%) of WWDSS between age group of 15 and 59 years were found to be non-workers (not economically active) vis-a-vis only 19% of males and 60% of females as non-workers among general population.
Majority of persons with speech or movement disability and almost three- fourth of persons with mental deficiencies were non-workers. On the whole 55% of MWD were main workers, 9% marginal workers and 36% non-workers. Among PWD, the respective percentages were 19% main worker, 13% marginal worker and remaining 68% non-workers. 1.2 Employment- The employment rate of PWD men and women compared to non-PWD is low and lower again for those with more severe disabilities. The NSSO Survey (2002) estimated only 25% of the PwDs population as employed, 1% were unemployed and the rest were out of labour force. Among males, 36% were found to be employed while among females only 10% were employed and 89% were out of labour force. World Bank Report suggests that the employment rate of disabled population is lower (about 60 percent on average) than the general population, with the gap widening in the 1990s. There is a notable gender difference in the employment situation of PwDs men and women relative to non-PWD population. The employment rate of PWD women relative to non-PWD women is significantly higher than for PwDs men relative to non-PWD men.