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KARACHI: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the economic losses incurred through excluding persons with disabilities from the world of work are as high as 3-7 percent of global GDP. In Pakistan, estimates of the number of persons living with disabilities vary between 3.3m and 27m, depending on the data source.

Building on these statistics, the Pakistan Business Council’s Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business hosted a webinar to understand ‘Disability Inclusion in Pakistan’s Corporate Sector.’ Speakers from ConnectHear, HBL, International Finance Corporation, NOWPDP, and Unilever Pakistan, spoke on their experience of work for the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

Although provincial legislation mandates that persons with disabilities make up at least 2% of the workforce in businesses with more than 100 employees (5% in the Sindh Province), a significant proportion still struggles to enter and stay. ‘Currently, the business sector has made some progress,’ remarked Ehsan Malik, CEO Pakistan Business Council. ‘However, there is a need for data collection and lessons learnt to be shared.’

Businesses can play a significant role by providing gainful employment and contributing to the economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. ‘There is a business case for increasing the share of persons with disabilities in the workforce by creating inclusive leadership teams and workplaces,’ highlighted Rudaba Nasir, Global Lead, Economic Inclusion, International Finance Corporation, ‘Our research shows disability-inclusive business strategy promises a significant return on investment: 28% higher revenue, double net income, 30% higher profit margins, and strong next generation talent acquisition and retention.’

As businesses that have embarked on the journey to including persons with disabilities in the workforces, both HBL and Unilever emphasized that a ‘tick in the box’ approach cannot work and that inclusion requires an enabling approach from leadership which drives focus on updating the physical infrastructure and overall workforce sensitization with specialist partners sch as NOWPDP and ConnectHear as facilitators. The webinar also included two persons with disabilities who shared the challenges of working in the corporate sector. ConnectHear provided the sign language interpretation for the webinar.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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