SINGAPORE – Companies play the most important role in ensuring more people with disabilities are hired, while the Government will continue to play a key role by offering support, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday (Aug 25).
To see a sustainable improvement in the employment of these people, businesses must see it in their interest to hire them – not just out of charity or social good, but also because firms truly believe in the benefits of disability-inclusive hiring, he said.
The public service, one of Singapore’s largest employers, has also been inclusive in its hiring, he added.
Mr Wong highlighted the example of Vital, an agency at the Ministry of Finance which provides corporate shared services for the entire public service.
To assist with digitising hardcopy documents, Vital worked with SG Enable – the focal agency for disability and inclusion here – to hire individuals with autism as they realised that certain aspects of the job played to their strengths, said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.
Vital then continued to find suitable job roles for people with disabilities. It currently employs them in various roles, including in its payroll and claims division.
Speaking at the Inclusive Business Forum held at Mediacorp’s theatre in one-north, Mr Wong encouraged more companies to be more inclusive in their hiring.
The biennial forum, organised by SG Enable, focused on how disability inclusion can drive business resilience and sustainable growth in the future of work.
The employment rate of people with disabilities has increased from about 28 per cent in 2019 to about 30 per cent now.
He said: “We can and must do better. Because as we look to the future, what is clear is that the continued success of Singapore will rely not just on how much economic growth we can generate, but also how inclusive we can become as a society. We have to do more to ensure everyone can participate fully in the progress of our nation.”
He added: “Ultimately, persons with disabilities do want to work and, if given the chance, have many valuable skills to offer. And as a society, we owe it to them to give them this opportunity. So let’s all do our part to get 40 per cent of persons with disabilities employed by 2030.”
The 40 per cent goal was among the targets listed in the Enabling Masterplan 2030, a national disability inclusion road map released last week. Reaching it means placing another estimated 10,000 people with disabilities in jobs.
On the Government’s part, it has implemented initiatives such as a wage offset scheme and a grant to defray costs of workplace modifications and equipment. SG Enable also provides job-matching services and facilitates training and job coaching support.
Mr Wong also noted that it is increasingly apparent that being disability-inclusive makes good business sense. He referred to a study commissioned by SG Enable and conducted by executive search and consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles.
Such companies tend to have a greater sense of purpose, leading to higher retention rates among employees, as well as a greater focus on customer needs, as employees become more empathetic and aware of individual differences.