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Belgium’s workplaces ‘insufficient’ in its inclusion of people with a disability, says study by the King Baudouin Foundation

17:41 30/04/2024

Access to the job market remains a major challenge for people with disabilities in Belgium, reveals a new study, initiated by the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF).

“Their employment rate is 41.1%, a figure well below some European countries,” it pointed out in a press statement released on the eve of International Labour Day on 1 May.

According to the foundation’s figures, "75% of people with disabilities consider it imperative to better inform and raise awareness among employers about their specific needs."

Many people still face prejudice, discrimination, a lack of support and support or unsuitable tasks and workstations, it found.

Significantly, the survey also highlights the lack of clarity surrounding eligibility for financial assistance.

“More than 30% of those questioned say they do not benefit from financial aid related to their disability, or do not know if they receive it”. Among the respondents, “37% indicate that they do not know where to apply for this aid, highlighting the huge information gap from which people with disabilities suffer."

These figures increase when respondents have a low level of education, which underlines the importance of prioritising the most vulnerable people in any efforts to raise awareness about benefits, it found.

Nevertheless, many people with disabilities consider professional activity an important factor for fulfillment. Work is seen as a way of feeling useful and creating social bonds. If some feel pressure from family, friends and society to work, others prioritise the inclusion obtained through employment, even if it means inflicting considerable pressure on themselves. Some 44% of respondents also favour volunteering, accompanied by less personal pressure.

More than two thirds (67%) believe that their employment constitutes added value for the workplace, provided that this factor is recognised and employers act more positively for their inclusion.

However, for people with disabilities, securing an interview and finding suitable employment means navigating a competitive environment and facing prejudice and discrimination. The majority (65%) of those questioned are convinced that during a selection process the able-bodied are favoured over people with disability.

Based on the results of the survey, the foundation identified various avenues. It recommends better accessibility of information relating to the obligation of aid and accommodation in the workplace, as well as a less stigmatising administrative framework.

In total, 1,028 people from Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders participated in the online survey.

For the study, people with disabilities are defined as "people who have long-lasting physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities, whose interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on the basis of equality with others,” as defined by the UN Convention.

Written by Sarah Crew