Prime Minister Davutoğlu announced on Wednesday the assignment of more than 4,600 disabled citizens to public sector jobs in the country’s drive to boost the social inclusion of disadvantaged communities
In a move to address the lack of jobs, one of the main problems for Turkey's disabled community, which comprises some 6.9 percent of the total population, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu attended a ceremony on Wednesday in Ankara where disabled citizens, relatives of civil servants who were killed in acts of terrorism and veterans were selected for public sector job assignments.
Davutoğlu said the disabled citizens once confined to homes will no longer remain unemployed. "They now have a mighty state able to help them. We have provided jobs to 37,000 disabled people so far," he said. He said that the disabled were self-confident again as they are now viewed as valuable to society and helping them is a dignified task. "We will answer to their demands and no one in this country will feel themselves as weak," he said.
The lack of accessibility in daily life and lack of employment are among their main concerns. The public's view of the disabled as different rather than people with equal rights also worries the disabled. Turkey, which signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, implemented a comprehensive legislative package in 2005 to address the problems of the disabled. The legislation obliges the state to develop social policies for the rights of the disabled and to protect them against abuse. The country also adopted regulations to increase the employment quota for the disabled and introduced monthly benefits for families with disabled members cared for at home. It also introduced a work quota scheme in 2005 for private companies and public institutions, legally binding them to employ disabled people. For example, companies that employ more than 50 people should hire at least two disabled members of staff. The disabled are also provided with free passes on public transport as a commuting incentive.
To overcome employment problems, the government launched a government exam for disabled individuals in 2011. The first exam took place a year after and resulted in more than 5,000 people being employed in public positions. The exam was repeated in 2013 and 2014.
The state has also introduced various incentives such as tax cuts for private companies that employ disabled people.
Nevertheless, activists claim that prejudice against disabled people in workplaces remains. For instance, they are often paid minimum wage even though their contributions and professional background may command a higher wage.
Turkey also provides free loans for disabled entrepreneurs and projects involving mass employment of the disabled through a state-run employment agency. Additionally, the government earmarked more than TL 4 billion ($1.8 billion) in the 2014 budget for public services for the disabled.
The Family and Social Policies Ministry is also undertaking the project "İşe Katıl, Hayata Atıl" (Take Up a Job, Take On Life). It was launched last year in cooperation with the ministry and a private bank. Mentors were assigned to disabled people looking for jobs in the private sector and guided them throughout the process of employment, helping both employers and employees overcome the challenges the disabled face. The project was first launched in Ankara and will soon be followed by other cities, including Sakarya, Samsun, Gaziantep and Istanbul, with the aim of helping more than 300 disabled people find jobs. Called "supported employment," it is a relatively new employment model in Turkey. Mentors first find a suitable job for candidates and help them become acquainted with the job by going to work every day with the prospective employee.
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