How Do We Boost Employment Outcomes for Neurodiverse Albertans?
SPP Research Paper No. 10/5
10 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018
Date Written: June 27, 2018
Despite the supports that have been put in place, Canadians with developmental disabilities (DD) continue to face obstacles in gaining and maintaining employment. In 2012 two out of three Canadians with DD were out of the workforce and not looking for a job. This dismal statistic means that a large number of capable people are chronically unemployed, a situation that leads to poorer quality of life, with accompanying declines in cognitive function and general well-being.
For these neurodiverse Canadians, the cascading effects of unemployment include financial insecurity, poor self-esteem, less ability to live independently and lower community participation. For employers, it means that a pool of diverse talent and resources that would benefit their companies is untapped.
Of all disabilities, Canadians with DD face the worst employment levels. Educating employers about neurodiversity and incentivising them to make accommodations in hiring practices and in the workplace would go far toward reducing the number of jobless neurodiverse people. As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Canada is expected to provide inclusive and accessible job training, education and labour market opportunities.
Yet, labour market activation programs, welfare reforms and equality laws have so far failed to make a difference in the unemployment numbers. A recent study reveals that the top three barriers to unemployment for neurodiverse Albertans include employers’ knowledge, attitude, capacity and management practices; a late start to the concept of work among people with DD; and the stigma of their disability.
Programs to remedy the situation abound at the federal and provincial levels and lately, the focus has been shifted to employer education initiatives. Much remains to be done, however, and this communiqué offers suggestions for policy changes that may benefit all parties concerned.
One policy could entail changing the design of income assistance programs like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) to remove disincentives to work, such as ensuring continued access to important health benefits. Governments could also offer financial incentives such as wage subsidies and tax credits to employers who hire neurodiverse people, as well as provide monetary incentives for neurodiverse Canadians who wish to be self-employed. Training programs could be available for employers to teach them the value of having a diverse workforce, as well as instructing them in how their companies can become inclusive and accessible.
Putting the proper supports in place in the early years would assist neurodiverse high-school youth to participate in career planning, work internships and job training. Helping Canada’s neurodiverse population to get and keep jobs provides benefits to the economy in terms of increased GDP, to employers in terms of talent and ability, and to people with DD who will enjoy a higher quality of life, greater self-esteem and reduced stigma and isolation.
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