Hiring of people with disabilities taken a hit during pandemic
Amid an ongoing recession triggered by the current pandemic, navigating the job market has been no less tough on people with disabilities.
In the service industry for example - one of the strongest supporters of disability employment - many businesses have had to reduce operations and pare down manpower, said SG Enable's assistant chief executive Tan Ko We.
"Some businesses gave feedback that they have put off hiring persons with disabilities for the moment due to the lack of bandwidth to provide training for them," Mr Tan told The New Paper yesterday.
This echoed remarks made by Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee at the opening of the biennial Inclusive Business Forum, where he said that inclusive hiring may have taken a backseat for some due to the pandemic.
Mr Lee, who was the Minister for Social and Family Development until the recent Cabinet reshuffle, said yesterday that jobs remain a top concern.
"How do we help employers adapt and continue to hire and train persons with disabilities in a largely remote working environment?" he said.
Mr Tan saw some bright spots amid the gloom, citing the example of Shangri-La Hotel, which resumed internships for several disabled trainees despite being hit hard by the pandemic.
With telecommuting fast becoming the norm, other speakers at the forum, organised by SG Enable and held virtually over Zoom, argued that the crisis was an opportunity to include more disabled people in the workforce.
About three in 10 people with disabilities aged between 15 and 64 are employed in Singapore.
In his speech, Mr Lee outlined several initiatives to help disabled job seekers, such as moving job support and physical lessons online as well as offering more training allowances and grants.
Jobs in sectors still hiring, such as banking and finance, continue to be explored and such vacancies were made available during SG Enable's virtual career fair in April, which drew about 300 disabled job seekers. Another fair will be held later this year.
The National Jobs Council will also look into job opportunities for persons with disabilities, Mr Lee added.
Undergraduate Jonathan Tiong, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is wheelchair-bound, said during yesterday's forum that much depends on the mindset of the employer.
He said: "Inclusive employers will evaluate the applications they receive based on merit... Whereas employers who hire the disabled because they feel obliged will find it easier to justify suspending hiring and to get rid of their existing disabled employees the moment the economy goes bad."