Overall, there has been apparent lack of systematic research with regards to the employment of disabled people in Greece. Research evaluating the impact of active policies and funding programmes intended to promote employment for disabled people is entirely absent. More qualitative research should also focus on the obstacles in accessing employment and the kind of assistance needed within the workplace, so as to feedback to guidelines for implementing equality in employment.
National Statistics on Employment of Disabled People in Greece
The survey carried out by the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG): “People with Health Problems or Disabilities” (2nd quarter of 2002), constitutes so far the only available measurement of employment rates with regards to disabled people, looking as well at the kind of assistance provided to disabled people at work. It is characteristic that this survey constitutes at the same time the only -sample- measurement of the population of people with disability or health problems in Greece in itself, while most recent household census regarding income and living conditions does not include data collection and analysis on the basis of disability.
According to the survey, 18.2% of the Greek population has a health problem or disability, half of which concerns people over 65. In comparison with the general population, the unemployment rate for people with health problems or disabilities was lower, at 8.9%, compared to 9.6% of the general population in 2002.
However, the 2002 survey also showed that 84% of disabled people or people with health problems are economically inactive compared to 54% of the general population. 40% of the economically inactive disabled people believe that they face social exclusion as a result, given insufficient benefits, unemployment and inadequacy of social services.
Over half of the people with disabilities that are economically inactive claim that they would or have encountered problems at work. A third claim that they would need some form of assistance at the workplace. The most commonly expressed form of assistance is support and understanding from superiors and colleagues.
The most recent labour force survey (first quarter 2009) shows unemployment rate in Greece at 9.3%. However, no data collection has been undertaken (within or outside this survey) to indicate any change or progress in the employment of disabled people.
The 2002 survey also recorded the types of assistance that disabled people receive at the workplace:
–> 27.9 % receive assistance with the object of their work;
–> 18 % receive assistance with the quantity of the workload;
–> 1.5% with accessing work; 13.2% with mobility within and during work;
–> 20.2% receive support and understanding;
–> Other form of assistance 16.4%; 2.8% did not reply.
Although this statistical survey is important in identifying the percentage of employment among disabled people, it does not provide any further information on the characteristics of the groups of employed/unemployed/ economically inactive, such as education level/ qualifications, age, gender or type of impairment, nor does it provide any description of the different sectors or kinds of employment disabled people are engaged in.
Furthermore, given the scope of the poll/ census, it fails to unpick qualitative elements for instance with regards to how people find employment, if there are any obstacles entering the market as well as inside the workplace, what are the obstacles perceived by unemployed/inactive people, who provides assistance at work and how- research which is essential in promoting employment of disabled people on equal terms.
Obstacles in the workplace in the public sector
A national study, undertaken by the Ministry of Internal, Public Administration & Decentralization (September 2006), aimed to identify the obstacles encountered by disabled employees in the public sector in their workplace and on that basis to provide guidelines for best practice. It was the first systematic data collection on the number of employees with disabilities that work within the public sector, carried out within the framework of improving the efficiency of public services through facilitation of human resources (enhancing employee rights and conditions of work).
885 public agencies responded to questionnaires, regarding the number of disabled people employed and the kinds of issues/ obstacles they encounter within their working environment. Out of those, 284 employ disabled people and 501 do not. This amounts to 2.232 employees with disability.
With regards to obstacles encountered by the employees, 19 public agencies reported issues occurring while carrying out their work, such as lack of accessible computers and software, inaccessible office space and telephone devices. 16 report obstacles concerning the accessibility of the workplace, such as lack of or inappropriate ramps to enter the building as well as within, such as lack of accessible WC, lack of parking for people with disabilities, and inadequately accessible elevators.
Furthermore, 16 public bodies refer to lack of option for flexible working hours, and 11 to demands for more special leave, annual leave, leave for doctors’ appointments, and sick leave. 11 report other issues, such as earlier retirement, working closer to home, and difficulty in travelling to and from work in periods with really high temperatures.
The study concludes with recommendations for policy given the issues that arise. The Ministry of Internal affairs urges all public agencies/ services to comply with anti-discrimination legislation regarding reasonable adjustments in employment. There is however no mention of how such efforts can be enhanced through governmental measures.
There is furthermore, established policy that allows for employees to choose the most suitable working hours for them (number ΔΙΑΔΠ/Γ2γ/οικ. 1692/27-6-06). Directors and managers are requested to consider and allow for further individual requests. There is similarly entitlement of disabled people to special leave, according to public employee code of practice.
The lack of in-depth consideration of guidelines for improvement is an evident shortcoming of the study, particularly as inadequate implementation of law prevents improvement in the first place. Reciting back is of questionable real effect. In depth qualitative research into the organization, directors approaches, interactions with staff and the experience of disabled people would provide a better starting point for exploring reasons and factors that affect implementation of the law, so as to provide more detailed, practical and persuasive guidelines.
The report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (2007) follows-up the level of compliance of public services with their duty to submit on a yearly basis plans for promoting accessibility of public buildings, within specific timeframe, and under monitoring by the state. The study is based on the case of public services in the municipality of Larisa. The limited sample of the study is a considerable drawback in monitoring implementation of the legal duty, firstly, and secondly in appreciating the extent of inaccessibility of public services.
The majority of the public buildings assessed have partial accessibility, which ends most of the times with the placement of a ramp. The elevators, grails, stands, parking spaces and WC accessible to disabled people exist only in few public services, where they do not always match to given standards of accessibility.
Furthermore, most of the services, despite their shortcomings in terms of accessibility, do not have specific action plans for the necessary adjustments. Despite legislative regulation (article 28 of Law 2831/2000) that requires measures to secure accessibility, public buildings are not suitably adjusted.
Moreover, the public services assessed did not operate a distinct unit to oversee implementation of accessibility standards as required by law (article 12 Law 3230/2004 (Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic 44/Α/11-2-2004) or the units were not operating properly due to lack of staff and strategic planning.
The recommendations laid out in the study involved the mobilization of the ministerial units responsible for accessibility issues to provide constant information to the relevant units within public services regarding this, through internal flow of information but also through information campaigns. Furthermore, they are urged to participate in the planning of the necessary adjustments to the buildings falling under their jurisdiction. They should initiate actions but also penalties for public services failing to comply.
Obstacles in accessing employment in the private sector
A recent survey by MDA Hellas under the partnership “ε-ΠΙΜΕΝΩ” (“I-nsist”) (2007), presented a picture of employment of disabled people in the open market.
According to Greek legislation private companies with more than 50 staff are required to employ disabled people at the percentage of 8% of the total staff. Nevertheless, the fact that only 20% of the surveyed companies with more than 50 staff employed disabled people shows that the law is not implemented.
Only 20% of private businesses had ramps inside their building and another equal percentage provided accessible toilets.
Furthermore, 60% of the companies that do not employ disabled people stated that they would do so only under the condition that the salary of the disabled employee was co-funded or entirely paid by the state. This is indicative of negative perceptions of disabled people as employees, or disbelief about their skills. The change of attitudes and culture is crucial here in overturning employment only under “special conditions” to employment on equal terms.
A poll carried out by an independent research company (VPRC) between 8/12/2003 and 16/01/2004, confirms equally low levels of employment of disabled people in the private sector. Among 360 businesses that were surveyed, with 32,929 staff in total, there were only 67 disabled employees (0.2%). When asked the reasons why companies employed disabled people, 38% of the companies replied that they did so as they were required by the law, 33.3% as according to their own policy with regards to Corporate Social Responsibility, 9.5% because they entrusted the high performance of the employee, and 9.5% for random reasons.
Even though 55% of the companies of the sample were aware of specific funding programs for the employment of disabled people in the private sector, only 14.6% had considered to employ a disabled person.
Finally, more recent research carried out by the Equal national thematic networks (2nd Cycle) in June 2008 in the private sector regarding “managing difference in the workplace” has been recently published.
The survey was conducted on a sample of 98 companies employing in total 18.487 people. The findings show that only 1.17% of all staff belong to any of the 14 vulnerable group categories (among them disabled people, immigrants, drug rehabilitated people, ex-prisoners and long-term unemployed).
In particular, 72,4% of employers said they would not employ a person with mental health problems, while 32.7% would not employ people with physical impairments. In theory, however, 96% of companies believe corporal social responsibility would serve better the goals of the company for development and profit, while 96% also believe that people from vulnerable social groups should be given more opportunities for employment. In particular, 88.8% believe that the private sector is as responsible as the state for promoting the social and economic inclusion of people from excluded social groups.
The research findings give a concrete view of the difficulties disabled people, among other social groups, face in accessing employment. Although companies seem to recognize the role of private sector in promoting social inclusion, the reluctance they show in employing staff themselves seems to stem from a deep rooted disbelief regarding the knowledge and skills of employees from particular social groups (80% of companies believed this), as well as their ability to adjust to work environment and culture (70.4%). Employers also seem to think that employees from such backgrounds would be frequently absent from work, due to health or family problems (65.3%).
Disability NOW (www.disabled.gr)