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India Inc has long way to go in employing disabled people

Only 34 lakh of the about 1.34 crore people with disabilities (PwDs) in the employable age have a job in India, according to Equiv.in, a recruitment platform that cited government data for the numbers. That is an unemployment rate of more than 70%.

Updated: Dec 11, 2019, 12.22 PM IST
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Companies such as Infosys, Lemon Tree Hotels, Sodexo, Capgemini and Flipkart said they have stepped up hiring of PwDs.
NEW DELHI: When it comes to inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce, Indian businesses have a long road to travel.

Only 34 lakh of the about 1.34 crore people with disabilities (PwDs) in the employable age have a job in India, according to Equiv.in, a recruitment platform that cited government data for the numbers. That is an unemployment rate of more than 70%.

“Very few in this group get decent education due to societal constraints,” Equiv.in CEO Naren Krishna said, citing this as a key reason for the high unemployment rate among PwDs. His company helps place the disabled, LBGT, women and veterans in jobs.

Ashok Pamidi, the chief executive of Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of the technology industry body, said he estimated about 0.6-1% of the IT sector workforce to be disabled people. The sector employs around 40 lakh people in India.

According to him, this number would not be very different for other sectors of formal employment.

ET has approached 20 companies, asking them about hiring of PwDs, and the response largely corroborated with the views of Pamidi and Equiv.in. Some of them do not have concrete plans for PwDs, but most have people with disabilities in the workforce, and are increasingly making their workplaces disabled-friendly with plans to recruit more.

Hindustan Unilever has 200 PwDs in direct and indirect jobs, in its workforce of about 18,000. The consumer goods firm has plans to make all its workplaces accessible by 2022 and recruit more people with disabilities, a spokesperson said.

Companies such as Infosys, Lemon Tree Hotels, Sodexo, Capgemini and Flipkart said they have stepped up hiring of PwDs.

There is an advantage of hiring people with disabilities, said companies. They are less likely to leave the job, because the opportunities are limited at present.

“PwDs are known to be more loyal to organisations and therefore retention improves,” said Sreya Oberoi, Sodexo’s India head of diversity and inclusion. The company is planning to hire more than 100 PwDs and add to its existing pool of 100 who have either physical or mental disabilities, she said.

Aradhana Lal, the vice president of brand, communications & sustainability initiatives at Lemon Tree Hotels, said the attrition rate of employees with disability was half that of the company overall. The company has around 600 PwD employees, or 10-11% of the workforce that it aims to take to 20-25% by 2025.

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On the other hand, companies like KPMG have recently hired a senior resource to drive its inclusion and diversity agenda. The company has also done a facility audit for the offices and is making some changes to be compliant. The accessibility to restrooms for PwDs has recently been addressed across KPMG offices.

IT major Capgemini aims to increase its PwD headcount by 25% year-on-year.

Flipkart calls the 450 PwDs working in its supply chain as sorters, pickers and delivery executives as eDABs, or Ekartians with Different Abilities. It aims to increase the number of eDABs to 500 by next March. Flipkart’s parent Walmart has PwDs working as managers, team leads and floor-associates.

IndiGo airline currently has 10 employees with reduced mobility working across operational and administrative roles, and Raj Raghavan, its senior vice president-HR, called it “a modest start”.

Several companies are also taking special measures to attract this workforce.

Accenture India recently started a six-month internship programme that aims to build a skilled talent pool of PwD candidates. Intel last year started the India chapter of Intel Disability and Accessibility Network, which works towards improving infrastructure, building awareness, creating a safer environment and integrating hired individuals with special needs. Verizon has an “affinity group” for PwD employees called Infinite.

Infosys, meanwhile, has specific recruitment drives with special referral bonuses to encourage employees to refer people with disabilities. “If we are not inclusive, we are really missing out on tapping the potential of a huge segment,” said Aruna C Newton, the Bengaluru-based company’s global head of diversity & inclusion.

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