Employment Barriers Facing the Disabled in Palestine. Palestine suffers a disproportionately high percentage of people with physical and mental disabilities, in part due to the longstanding conflict with Israel, political instability, and poverty. This segment of the Palestinian society has constantly been ignored and neglected. Presently, those with special needs are not able to participate in Palestinian economic growth nor are they able to become constructive citizens of their home communities due to the lack of support facilities, services and governmental programs.
Although the rate of unemployment within various Palestinian social groups has been on the rise, it is especially high amongst those who suffer from physical or mental disabilities. The Palestinian government has developed a robust set of laws aiming to ensure that people with disabilities will have easy access to different types of jobs and career options. However, the reality on the ground paints a different picture: a recent study conducted by the Palestinian ministry of social affairs showed that there is a staggering 90% unemployment rate amongst disabled Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and 85.
6% in the West Bank. The results of this study show that although there are laws put forth protecting the employment rights of people with disabilities, these laws are hardly being enforced and are nothing more than ink on paper. The majority of Palestinian business owners have negative attitudes toward hiring disabled people. The belief that customers do not normally feel comfortable around disabled employees have led to many private sector businesses not employing those with disabilities. Similarly, many Palestinian employers refuse to hire disabled people because they believe that disabled employees would face many physical and mental barriers that would limit their productivity and the profit generation of their companies. Utilizing my position as a successful Palestinian economic consultant, I could argue that hiring and integrating disabled people in the business cycle would have rather a positive impact on the profit returns for various corporations and therefore the growth of the Palestinian GDP and similarly the Palestinian economy. For instance, a study conducted in Canada proved that hiring disabled people improves the company’s public image and enhances a moral corporate culture and workplace diversity. Similarly, the decline in the Palestinian GDP from 2.7 to 2.5 over the course of last year was the result of many factors, one of which was the increasing rate of unemployment amongst different Palestinian social groups, and especially the disabled. Therefore, increasing the number of disabled employees would help improve the Palestinian GDP and boost our economy as it will reduce the high unemployment rates. All business leaders are compelled to make decisions and implement policies that will benefit their company’s profit, which by extension benefits the economy and society overall. As an economic consultant, I will convince business leaders to adopt best practices in hiring disabled Palestinians, not only to comply with existing laws but because this will have a lasting, positive impact on the entire economic system. In my opinion, a number of effective solutions and laws need to be enforced to integrate disabled groups in the Palestinian job market and ensure equal job opportunities for them. On the governmental level, the Palestinian government can encourage companies to train and hire disabled employees with some incentives, for example job subsidies or tax allowances as a way of compelling companies to hire more disabled employees. Governmental job development programs need to be implemented to train and develop disabled people’s skills, so they can be an efficient part of their country’s economic progress. Moreover, facilities and services need to be provided to ease their mobility and help them thrive in the workplaces. To have government funded projects in which disabled people are in charge of operating and monitoring projects can help them generate income and have some self-reliance. And most importantly laws need to be enforced to specify a certain quota for the employment of the disabled in private and public sector organizations. On the corporate level, there are many different areas in which companies and the private sector can help empower people with special needs. One way to empower those with special needs could be through spreading awareness amongst employers and business owners regarding people with disabilities; this can be achieved through holding seminars and different training sessions on how to fully utilize the abilities of those with special needs. Furthermore, ensuring equal wages between those with disabilities and their co-workers is another way of empowering the disabled. Lastly, enhancing the company’s corporate culture and putting forth non-discriminatory work policies can empower minorities, including the disabled, in several work environments. If these laws and solutions were to be applied, it will impact the Palestinian economy and we would have an ever rising GDP as a result of employing all of our resources and the constant decline of unemployment rates among Palestinians. It can empower minorities to participate in the job market, which will eventually encourage them to open and operate their own businesses. I believe that by allowing such minorities to take part in the economic progress of our nation, the Palestinian nation will be able to move forward towards prosperity and independence.