Persons with En-abilities: A Paradigm Shift

Technological changes over the last decade have led to a wave of transformation bringing equal rights, empowerment and inclusion to those with disabilities
The world is witnessing a wave of transformation in all facets of socio-cultural-economic endeavours, leading to a significant shift towards equal rights, empowerment and rightful inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs). The change has not been in mindset alone (the earlier demoralising view based on charity and sympathy-induced support) but also in terms of laws, policies and compliance framework.


It is no surprise that technological changes over the last decade have led to foundational metamorphosis in the manner of every singular function of work from manufacturing and production, to developmental processes and beyond. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, while low-skilled jobs have been replaced by adaptive automation leading to unemployment for many, the introduction of AI, robotics and algorithmic solutions has brought about a welcome shift in this trend. Addressed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this technological rising has led to expansion of opportunities for PWDs in the fields of manufacturing and various service-led industries. Governments in ASEAN region are alert to his opportunity for its citizens with disabilities. For instance, Singapore’s Ministry of Social & Family Development has a dedicated program to train PWDs for emerging jobs and place them through partner organisations.


With the emergence of short-term contracts and relaxed work arrangements for freelancers and self-employed individuals, doors have opened for aspirant PWDs. While prospective employment opportunities may require technological support like assistive devices and Internet access to enter the gig economy, this model is bound to provide PWDs the crucial flexibility in terms of place and time of work, also resulting in low incidental costs pertaining to daily commute, work station, etc.


Setting an example for companies globally, Grab Technologies (offering ride-hailing, food delivery services and payment solutions) initiated this project to broaden the horizon for PWDs and give them a fair chance at rightful employment. Hired as drivers and delivery partners, so far over 500 individuals with deafness, cerebral palsy or motor impairments have benefited from this initiative. Alongside, they are also eligible for the benefits programme (covering insurance) thus not just supporting livelihood but also strengthening financial resilience.


Employment and social protection support centres have been set up by various governments to safeguard the income security and livelihoods of PWDs post the pandemic. The objective is to encourage flexible working arrangements, encouraging employment by providing subsidies to companies, setting up online training and recruitment service platforms, providing cash transfers and in-kind aid such as food packages and hygiene kits, and undertaking administrative measures, such as ensuring the timely payment of disability allowances and extending the validity period of disability certificates, to ensure the continued receipt of disability-related allowances.

Various steps have led to noteworthy progress in opening channels towards an equality- based approach. Governments, public and private entities and various service providers have made considerable efforts in this direction too. For instance, Thailand’s Ministry of Labour grants significant tax relief to organisations that employ PWDs, encouraging companies to hire at least one PWD for every 100 employees. With more being done in the ASEAN region with a human-rights-based approach to fill in gaps in the employment status of PWDs, engaging and encouraging active participation of PWDs in the implementation of policy recommendations is sure to have a positive socio-economic impact in the years to come.


About the Author

Ishaan Malik

Ishaan Malik is our Head – Client Relations (ASEAN and Australia). Through his prior experience at TCG-Digital, Ernst & Young, and Clearwater Capital Partners Ishaan has gained experience in Sales, Marketing and Risk across a diverse set of industries, thus affording him an eclectic knowledge base to support our clients’ aspirations in ASEAN.