Should hiring quotas be set for persons with disabilities?

A Singapore minister disagrees, says it could lead to tokenism

Should hiring quotas be set for persons with disabilities?

Would a hiring target for persons with disabilities make companies more inclusive?

Minister-in-charge of Public Service Chan Chun Sing disagreed with having a target, acknowledging that it could lead to tokenism. He suggested the best incentive for public companies to hire persons with disabilities is to have a “separate quota”.

This means their employment is not counted under the “usual manpower headcount” during a labour crunch, giving companies the freedom to employ as many persons with special needs – regardless of circumstances as a hiring freeze, for example.

“We really don’t want people to meet the target for the sake of meeting the target,” Chan said. “I want people to look at the people based on what they can do and focus on their abilities instead of disabilities and fit them into the job (by redesigning) the job to fit the person.”

The minister was responding to a question from member of parliament (MP) Denise Phua last week, who asked whether the government would consider setting a hiring target for the public sector. Phua pointed out that the sector currently employs a “dismal” 365 out of over 150,000 civil servant officers.

She said a soft target would go some way to setting an example for other industries.

“I know the government is generally allergic to quotas in this aspect,” Phua said. “But I am hoping that at least the public service can set an example, a model, and perhaps put in or install some targets – for example, one or two percent cent first, so the rest of us in the country can actually look towards learning as much as possible.”

Chan said that the current employment rate of people with disabilities in the public sector is already “over and above” the usual manpower quotas.

He also called for greater efforts in promoting inclusive hiring practices by sharing testimonies and practices.

In a separate Committee of Supply debate speech, Minister of for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said the government and SG Enable will be releasing a guide for companies to better integrate persons with special needs at the workplace.

The Job Redesign Guide will be released in the first half of 2019, and include information on common workplace modifications, changes to working arrangements, and the use of assistive technology devices.

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