Boosting the employability of persons with disabilities

Recommendations for strengthening the labour market focus of panti sosial

Vocational training at panti social

In Indonesia, as in many other countries, people with disabilities face significant disadvantages throughout education and employment. According to recent research, a person with a mild disability has only a 65 percent chance of being employed in comparison with a non-disabled person. A more serious disability reduces the relative chance of being employed to roughly 10 percent. The Indonesian government has enacted certain policies to address this situation, including by ratifying UNCRPD, enacting a law on disability and designing a national action plan. Furthermore, the BAPPENAS National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN) highlights the need for better labour market integration of people with disabilities.

As this report argues, the social care units directed by the Ministry of Social Affairs (panti sosial) are a form of key social infrastructure in Indonesia and is central to boosting the labour market competitiveness of people with disabilities. However, it would be advisable to strengthen the vocational training and private sector skills of panti sosial in order to ensure that students (penerima manfaat = beneficiaries) are adequately prepared for decent work and an independent, self-determined life. The Social Affairs Ministry has already launched a Productive Economy programme (ekonomi produktif – EKOTIF) that adopts this vision and seeks to prepare students for a range of selected professions, from handicrafts to massage therapy. As the Indonesian economy changes quickly, providing more and more jobs in manufacturing and services while suffering a slump in demand for commodities, it is vital to adapt to these circumstances.
Based on site visits, interviews with staff and management and extensive desk research, this report argues that panti sosial should extend their mandate (traditionally focused on social rehabilitation) and explore ways to connect with companies, improve curricula and enhance advocacy and outreach activities. The report also finds that coordination with local social affairs offices (dinas sosial) could be strengthened to ensure that public services, job-matching efforts and community life are aligned.

While the quality of rehabilitation and training at the four sites visited (Bambu Apus, Bekasi (both Java), Palembang (Sumatra), Banjar Baru (Kalimantan)) was generally sound and the infrastructure decent, major differences were observed regarding labour market training. Whereas some instructors establish connections with local companies and identify private sector requirements, others focus on elementary education. Although there are clearly serious challenges posed by the beneficiaries’ low level of education, we suggest the development of a shared vision of training across all panti sosial, aligned with regular vocational training centres (balai latihan kerja) across Indonesia. There is a vast amount of evidence from both Indonesian and international projects that could inform elements of reform.

In order to analyse and compare the organisational capacities of the panti sosial, five main categories of investigation were identified:

  • Scope of services for beneficiaries
  • Relations with employers
  • Skill development and curricula
  • Advocacy and community outreach
  • Sources of funding

This report focuses on action points and practical lessons that could be followed by the Social Affairs Ministry or piloted in certain panti sosial. Research shows that the stigma attached to disability persists despite the efforts of staff and communities. Negative attitudes toward mental illness are especially pronounced, reinforcing social marginalization. In the case of people with mental illness, it has been reported that families and the originating community at times refuse to welcome the students back after they have completed their vocational training.

Apart from this, companies also worry about increased costs related to hiring disabled workers—whether they need to design special workplaces or purchase expensive equipment. These concerns are largely baseless, but this is not well understood by either employers or panti sosial staff. Most importantly, according to testimony from Bambu Apus, a majority of companies remain unconvinced that the value of hiring persons with disabilities would outweigh the concerns and costs incurred. More efforts on the national scale are needed to tackle stigma, discrimination und unawareness. Arguably, this would be best achieved through more positive examples of people with disabilities in decent, productive employment.


Authors: Frank Schneider, Dr. Muchlas Suseno, Nurvitria Mumpuniarti Krištofíková
July 2016

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