In 2023, the Human Rights Research Institute of Guangzhou University convened a pivotal seminar focused on inclusive employment for persons with disabilities. Collaborating with esteemed institutions such as Wuhan University’s Human Rights Research Institute, the Rights Protection Professional Committee of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, and the Guangzhou Disabled Persons’ Affairs Research Association, the event drew over 30 representatives from decision-making departments, industry associations, and disability-focused organizations.
Zhou Lulu, Secretary of the Party Branch and Deputy Dean of Guangzhou University’s Human Rights Research Institute, orchestrated the inaugural ceremony, displaying unwavering support for the seminar’s profound mission. Li Yun, Deputy Secretary-General of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, eloquently articulated the federation’s paramount role in inclusive disability employment within business, industry, and human rights realms. Li Yan, Secretary of the Party Branch and Deputy Dean of the Institute of Scientific Research of Guangzhou University, extended a warm welcome, highlighting the university’s dedicated pursuits in disability-related research. Gu Nianqun, Director of the Rights Protection Department of the Guangzhou Disabled Persons Federation, shared valuable insights into Guangzhou’s unique approaches and futuristic strategies for promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Professor Xiao Shijie, Deputy Dean of the Human Rights Research Institute of Guangzhou University, passionately urged experts to channel their efforts towards practical solutions, advocating for equality, participation, inclusion, and collaborative development in disability rights.
Session One: What & Why: Inclusive Disability Employment from the Perspective of Business, Industry, and Human Rights
Hosted by Liang Xiaohui, Deputy Chief Economist of the China Textile Information Center and Chief Researcher of the Social Responsibility Office of the China Textile Industry Federation, this thought-provoking session delved into comprehensive strategies for including persons with disabilities in the workforce. Professors Zhang Wanhong and Jiang Chuanzeng, alongside Dr. Ding Peng, highlighted the strategic blending of business, human rights, and disability employment, advocating for a balanced approach fostering inclusive corporate environments conducive to diversity.
Session Two: National Obligations for Inclusive Disability Employment
Guided by Professor Xiao Shijie, this session spotlighted pragmatic measures for promoting inclusive disability employment. Speakers, including Chen Jun, Associate Professor Chen Bo, and Dai Rong, meticulously delineated regional initiatives, legal mechanisms against discrimination, and potent strategies for advocating inclusive disability employment from a grassroots viewpoint.
Session Three: Corporate Responsibilities in Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities
Facilitated by Tang Yingxia, Associate Director and Associate Professor of the Human Rights Research Center at Nankai University. Zhou Haibin, representing China at GBDN (Global Business and Disability Network) from Rongyi Consulting and the International Labour Organization (ILO), presented on “ILO’s Global Business and Disability Network: Pathways for Promoting Inclusive Employment and Specific Practices.” He introduced the ILO’s perspective on business, industry, and human rights policies, encompassing moral, legal, and business aspects. The ILO unveiled its self-assessment tool for disability inclusion, comprising 41 indicators across six major categories. Zhou emphasized specific practices observed among Chinese enterprises and institutions, notably highlighting the “Path to Inclusion” training aimed at facilitating reasonable accommodations by companies.
Wang Li, the Project Director of China-Germany Rongchuang Workshop, discussed the practices and challenges encountered in supporting sustained employment for persons with intellectual disabilities through a social enterprise model. As a pioneering member of GBDN, this workshop operates as a job-integrating social enterprise situated in Taicang, Jiangsu Province. Due to employers lacking relevant knowledge and experience, persons with intellectual disabilities face obstacles in accessing suitable education and services, making them one of the most challenging groups to employ. The China-Germany Rongchuang Workshop focuses on the economic empowerment of the disability population, aiming to integrate them into society beyond the conventional 8-hour workday, effectively connecting employers with job seekers. Leveraging the industrial network of hundreds of companies in Taicang, the workshop receives economic backing while also benefitting from support from the Disabled Persons’ Federation, currently offering 57 full-time positions tailored for persons with intellectual disabilities.
Under Tang Yingxia’s astute moderation, this illuminating session showcased the International Labour Organization’s invaluable insights and specific Chinese enterprise practices. Mr. Zhou Haibin and Ms. Wang Li spotlighted the ILO’s self-assessment tool and underscored the challenges encountered in supporting sustained employment for persons with disabilities through social enterprises.
Session Four: Effective Remedies for Inclusive Employment of People with Disabilities
This session convened as an open roundtable forum, guided by Zhang Ying, Vice Dean of the Compliance Research Institute at the Law School of Guangzhou University. Associate Professor Li Zijin from the Law and Politics School of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University addressed “Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities from the Perspective of Equality Anti-Discrimination Law.” He summarized the evolution of charity, medical, social, and rights models, emphasizing the complexity and variability in defining disabilities. Advocating for a multiple approach, Li highlighted the necessity for inclusive employment to encompass various domains and dimensions, spanning from pre-employment recruitment to post-employment support throughout the entire lifecycle. Transitioning from merely prohibiting employment discrimination to actively providing reasonable accommodations and implementing proactive employment measures presents significant challenges to traditional anti-discrimination laws.
Ms. Peng Feiyang, Senior Lecturer at the Guangzhou Disabled Employment Training Service Center, shared her poignant 32-year journey in special education, expressing profound empathy for friends with disabilities. Reflecting on the initial lack of policy and funding support in her hometown, she contrasted it with the present conducive employment environment and supportive conditions in Guangzhou. Despite the substantial challenges persisting in inclusive employment for persons with disabilities, Peng emphasized the commendable efforts of numerous enterprises actively engaging in this realm.
Mr. Liang Zhitu, Executive Deputy Secretary-General of Beijing Xiaogeng Aid for the Disabled Foundation and General Manager of the Guangzhou Yangai Special Children’s Parents Club, proposed initiating efforts at the inclusive education stage, underscoring the extensive groundwork required at the outset. Suggesting insights from the Macau experience, Zhitu highlighted the necessity for government departments to amplify investment, establishing multiple rehabilitation institutions and sheltered workshops with stable government funding, prioritizing the sustainable growth of enterprises. He contemplated future considerations such as inclusive corporate credit systems into mechanisms curbing employment bias against people with disabilities, establishing assessment criteria for the Disabled Persons’ Federation and Civil Affairs.
Mr. Hu Bo, a lawyer from Beijing Tianyuan (Guangzhou) Law Firm, analyzed issues pertaining to disability insurance fund collection, highlighting the inherent fairness in its calculation base but noting its limited operability in reality. He recommended transitioning from the current fixed employment ratio to a point system, diversifying ratios for units of varying natures and industries, and directing disability insurance fund expenditure towards rural areas to facilitate cross-regional mobility.
The participants passionately advocated for a paradigm shift from traditional welfare-centric approaches to rights-based solutions, ensuring equitable representation and inclusion of persons with disabilities.
During the evaluative phase, distinguished experts emphasized the pivotal role of research, fortified legal frameworks, and societal inclusion in fostering fair employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The seminar’s enduring legacy lies in the commitment it galvanized—a commitment to continue the journey toward full and meaningful inclusion, ensuring that every person with disability, irrespective of ability, finds a rightful place in the vibrant tapestry of the global workforce.