3rd December - International Day of Persons with Disabilities – can also be an illustration of what we could call a contradiction between economic science and management theory. In moments when productivity performance keeps being a source of stagnation for the Portuguese GDP, and when we face significant hurdles in talent attraction and retention, there is a gap we cannot ignore. This is the huge unemployment rate for people with disabilities, in contrast with the evidence of science and practice that these people are a differentiated resource and a source of competitive and productivity advantage for most companies.

We know that globally there are approximately 15% or 1 billion people with disabilities. Of the active world population with disabilities, only 20% are employed. This amount is substantially lower in Portugal, where only 10% of the population with disabilities has a job. This value is not surprising. However, it can be disturbing for two reasons. The first one, and the most evident, is that these people are excluded when they try to access a job. The second reason is that all the studies on the job market and human resources topic conclude the same: hiring people with disabilities is good and advantageous for the business.

The advantages of hiring people with disabilities are associated with reputation, customer satisfaction and better business performance. A recent paper published in the Academy of Management Journal shows precisely that customers have a better perception of companies when they receive a service from someone with a disability. Moreover, a recent scientific literature review on the topic brought to light the business case of hiring people with disabilities. The benefits of these hirings are expressed in more productivity, increased business volume, more talent retention, more punctual and loyal employees and a better company public image.  Accenture also demonstrates in two previous studies about this issue that inclusive companies have better performance than their competitors. They show greater profits and business volume (that can increase fourfold in relation to other companies), more market share, more innovation and better relationship with stakeholders, as well as better reputation.

In Portugal, we have an evident problem of talent attraction and retention. Notwithstanding, from the exposed evidence, people with disabilities are less hired and still suffer from high unemployment rates.  For this reason,  a new legislation was recently established in order to create quotas for people with disabilities. Contradictions aside, wouldn’t this be the time to act more efficiently and with good management practices about this topic? Indeed, this positioning would open new ways to bring advantages for business and this excluded workforce, while promoting shared value creation to society.

This topic is both an opportunity and a challenge. So let me launch a reflection: how are we contributing to this problem or its solution in our concrete job positioning?

Have a great and impactful week!

Filipa Pires de Almeida
Deputy Director
Center for Responsible Business & Leadership 

This article refers to edition #x of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter and covers SDG 8 and 10.
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