Thursday, 22 June 2006

Joint sitting of the Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues and the Poverty Reduction Committee

The Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues and the Poverty Reduction Committee held a joint roundtable on employment as a tool for ensuring equal participation of disabled persons in all fields of life.



The Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues and the Poverty Reduction Committee held a joint roundtable on employment as a tool for ensuring equal participation of disabled persons in all fields of life.

The roundtable, held at the National Assembly, provided an opportunity for a detailed discussion of all issues relating to fostering employment of disabled persons; it also served as a forum for legislative officials to get to know the area.

The Chairman of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Predrag Markovic, told the roundtable that he expected disabled persons’ associations and all other people involved with the issue to provide guidelines as to how laws could be implemented.

The roundtable was attended by officials of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy – State Secretary Vesna Piperski-Tucakov, Assistant to the Minister Sladjana Markovic, as well as Dragana Radovanovic and Jelena Brajovic, officials of the Legal Drafting Working Group; advisor at the Ministry of Education and Sports, Dragoslava Dragic; secretary of the Union of Societies for Assisting Mentally Underdeveloped Persons, Svetlana Vlahovic, and secretary of the Serbian Blind Persons Association, Nenad Simic. The meeting was also addressed by Svetislav Marjanovic, of the Paraplegics Association, Nebojsa Atanackovic, head of the Assembly of the Serbian Employers’ Association, Srbijanka Rafailovic, of the Serbian Independent Trade Unions’ Association, Mirjana Pantelic, secretary of the Union of Companies for Rehabilitation through Work and Employment of Disabled Persons, Ivanka Jovanovic, advisor to the Serbian Association with Persons with Dystrophia, Goran Pavlovic, executive director of the Association of Students with Disabilities, Slavoljub Lukovic, secretary of the Independence United Industry Trade Unions, Ruzica Savcic, of the Institute for Economic and Social Research, and Mirjana Mirkov, head of the Legal Affairs Sector at the Republic Fund for Pension and Disability Insurance.

OSCE, UNDP and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Poverty Reduction Task Force assisted in organising the roundtable and sent their representatives to attend.

Damjan Tatic, secretary general of the Serbian Disabled Persons’ Centre for Independent Life, prepared a situation analysis of legislation governing employment of disabled persons specifically for the roundtable.

Presenting the analysis, Mr Tatic said that disabled persons were entitled to all the rights enjoyed by other human beings, and that these were guaranteed by international conventions and national legislation.

World Bank data indicates that only 13% of Serbia’s people with disabilities were employed, National Employment Service records show that about 25,000 people with disabilities are unemployed, while research indicates that at least the same number again are unemployed but not in government records. Serbia’s poverty reduction strategy identifies disabled persons as one of the most vulnerable segments of society as far as poverty is concerned – about 70% of these people are at the very edge of, or under, the poverty line.

Employment can be considered the key for equal participation of disabled persons in all segments of life in Serbia. Employed disabled people are no longer passive subjects of other people’s care and charity, but rather become active citizens, using their own potentials for their own benefit, as well as that of the society as a whole. A rise in the employment rate of disabled persons would mean that they would no longer be a marginalised and ghettoised group, and one that is excluded from mainstream society and exposed to discrimination.

Preconditions for increasing employment levels of disabled people include collecting relevant social and economic data, making workplaces and the wider environment accessible, providing access to information and communication, building an integrative education system, enhancing personal assistance capacities, and co-ordinating activities of ministries and other appropriate bodies.

An inadequate education system is one of the main obstacles to the employment of more disabled persons. Nearly half of all disabled children fail to complete primary school; of the 25,000 unemployed disabled persons, only 80 have university degrees.

A draft Disabled Persons Employment Act, under intensive preparation by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy in co-operation with disabled persons’ organisations, was highly rated by roundtable attendees. The draft Act provides for compulsory quotas for employing disabled persons that will need to be adhered to by employers employing more than 20 people; also under consideration are incentives for employers and the creation of a Disabled Persons’ Professional Rehabilitation and Employment Fund. Wide-ranging social dialogue will need to be fostered – and will also need to include employers’ and trade union representatives – before the Act enters procedure.

The joint sitting of the two committees was co-chaired by the chairperson of the Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues, Ivana Kovacevic, and the chairperson of the Poverty Reduction Committee, Snezana Stojanovic-Plavsic.



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