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Deaf and Employment in crisis


In January 2013, there were 26.2 million unemployed people in the EU (10.8% of the active population and 11.9% in the Eurozone area). Unemployment has been increasing throughout the time as the financial crisis continues. The European Commission has recently released a report on employment stating the employment outlook is “very bleak,” considering that unemployment is predicted to remain at high levels until 2014. With the crisis, the EU and its Member States are likely to make budgetary cuts. This has impacted persons with disabilities, and in particular also Deaf sign language users.

During the first decade of 21st century, before the crisis, persons with disabilities experienced good quality living conditions and inclusion. Governments were making efforts to accommodate persons with disabilities. However, with the crisis in effect, they are likely to curtail the efforts. Currently, the future looks grim, especially with the chance of cuts weakening the economic, political, and social structures that were developed in the early 21st century.

1 out of 5 persons with disabilities (21.1%) are at the risk of poverty in the EU, compared to persons without disabilities: 14.9%. The effects of the crisis on persons with disabilities are: direct budget cuts; closure and merging of services; cuts in staffing, pay, and conditions; cuts in independent living support; delays in payments; delay of developments and reforms; longer waiting lists; more standardised/institutional services; non-indexation and deductions; users charge and cuts in benefits; and changed conditions for entitlement. There are limited data on deaf people; however, it is known that they, like other persons with disabilities, struggle in today’s labour market. Statistics have shown that deaf people are likely to have poor education because they often acquire language later in their childhood. With their limited skills, they have harder time finding a job. In addition, the services they get, such as sign interpretation or vocational training, are getting cut and that creates more barriers for them.

With the crisis affecting the common currency, employers are likely to not hire. The European Commission’s report stated that countless jobs and job opportunities have been decreasing because of the uncertainty of that has surrounded the Euro. In addition to the crisis, there has been an increase in skills mismatch, creating another issue in employment. It is expected that new jobs in EU will require high-level qualifications. This will play a role in deaf people’s struggle in labour market, seeing that they are more likely to be undereducated. As more jobs require higher qualification, it will become more important for deaf people to receive best education as possible in order to survive in the labour market. This requires legislations regarding to accessibility in education. The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training predicted that by 2020, the European labour market will have a surplus of some skills and a shortage of others. This can contribute to unemployment. Thus, solving the financial crisis is not the only task the EU is now charged with but also address possible skill mismatch situations.

The Labour Market Observatory held a hearing, “Employment Situation of People with a Disability,” on 12 June 2008, presenting numbers, which are still relevant today. DG EUROSTAT presented figures on employment of disabled people in the EU, reporting that 17% of the EU population are disabled (excluding those who live in institutions); however. They also point out however that it is difficult to find data regarding persons with disabilities because there is no common definition of ‘disability.’ The European Disability Forum, listed the barriers people with disabilities face as they seek for jobs: low education levels, inaccessible workplaces, lack of support, insufficient resources, and low flexibility. EDF believes that “the EU should aim at reaching the same rate of employment of disabled people as for the rest of the working population.” Finally, it was shared that it is actually cheaper to accommodate persons with disabilities than excluding them from the labour market. However, there were no specific data on deaf people. This data is used to push for inclusive labour market. Therefore, to ensure that deaf people are being included, data on the cost of unemployed deaf people needs to be collected and shared.

Employers and the government are likely to see accommodations as expensive; however, they do not realise what the outcome will be if they were willing to accommodate. The European Federation for Services to Individuals (EFSI) composed a report explaining the cost of unemployment. It compared the cost of unemployment in six EU Member States-Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom. The report presented findings that showed it is cheaper to provide accommodations rather than excluding persons with disabilities from the labour market because unemployment benefits are likely to be expensive, more expensive than the accommodations.

In order to improve employment situation for persons with disabilities, especially deaf people, data on deaf people in labour market, implementation of legislations for persons with disabilities, new legislations pushing for accommodations, programmes that would support persons with disabilities and educate employers, educational programmes for children with disabilities, and accessibility are essential.


Skill Mismatch in Europe:

Why Invest in Employment? A Study on the Cost of Unemployment

Reading Fluency in Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review- March 2013

The Employment Situation of People with Disability

Reading Research & Deaf Children

Reading Comprehension in Deaf Children

Assessing the Impact of European Governments’ Austerity Plans on the Rights of People with Disabilities

EU Urged to Address Paradox of High Unemployment and Skills Shortages

All the publications from 2022 - 2026 are co-funded by and produced under the European Commission’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) Programme.

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission’s CERV Programme. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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