NEW DELHI: When it comes to including people with disabilities in the workforce, Indian companies have a long way to go.
According to Equiv.in, a recruiting platform that cited government data for the numbers, only 34 lakh of the approximately 1.34 million people with disabilities (PwDs) of working age have jobs in India. That is an unemployment rate of more than 70%.
“Very few in this group receive adequate education due to social pressures,” said Niv Krishna, CEO of Equiv.in, citing this as the main reason for the high unemployment rate among PwDs. His company helps get the disabled, LBGT, women and veterans into jobs.
Ashok Pamidi, the executive director of the Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of the technology industry, estimated that around 0.6 to 1% of those employed in the IT sector are disabled. The sector employs around 40 lakh in India.
According to him, this number would not be very different for other areas of formal employment.
ET reached out to 20 companies and asked them about hiring PwDs. The reaction was largely confirmed with the views of Pamidi and Equiv.in. Some of them don’t have specific plans for PwDs, but most have people with disabilities on the workforce and are making their jobs increasingly disabled-friendly with plans to recruit more.
Hindustan Unilever has 200 PwDs in direct and indirect employment and around 18,000 employees. The consumer goods company plans to make all jobs accessible and recruiting more people with disabilities by 2022, a spokesman said.
Companies such as Infosys, Lemon Tree Hotels, Sodexo, Capgemini and Flipkart all said they had increased their hiring of PwDs.
It is an advantage to employ people with disabilities, according to the companies. They are less likely to leave the job as options are currently limited.
“PwDs are known to be more loyal to organizations, so retention improves,” said Sreya Oberoi, Sodexos director of diversity and inclusion in India. The company plans to hire more than 100 PwDs and expand its existing pool of 100 PwDs with physical or mental disabilities, she said.
Aradhana Lal, vice president of brand, communication and sustainability initiatives at Lemon Tree Hotels, said the wear and tear rate among employees with disabilities is half that of the company as a whole. The company employs around 600 PwD employees or 10 to 11% of the workforce, which is targeted to 20 to 25% by 2025.
On the flip side, companies like KPMG recently hired a high-level resource to help advance their inclusion and diversity agenda. The company also performed a facility audit of the offices and is making some changes to ensure compliance. Access to toilets for PwDs was recently investigated in all KPMG offices.
IT major Capgemini aims to increase the number of PwD employees by 25% compared to the previous year.
Flipkart names the 450 PwDs who work in its supply chain as sorters, order pickers and delivery managers as eDABs or Ekartians with different skills. The aim is to increase the number of eDABs to 500 by next March. Flipkart’s mother, Walmart, has PwDs who work as managers, team leaders and floor associates.
The airline IndiGo currently employs 10 people with limited mobility who serve in operational and administrative functions, and Raj Raghavan, Senior Vice President HR, called this “a humble start”.
Several companies are also taking special measures to attract this workforce.
Accenture India recently launched a six month internship program aimed at building a skilled talent pool of PwD candidates. Intel launched the India chapter of the Intel Disability and Accessibility Network last year, which aims to improve infrastructure, raise awareness, create a safer environment, and integrate employees with special needs. Verizon has an “affinity group” for PwD employees called Infinite.
Infosys meanwhile has special recruiting campaigns with special referral bonuses to encourage employees to refer people with disabilities. “If we’re not inclusive, we’re really missing out on a huge segment of potential,” said Aruna C Newton, global director of diversity & inclusion for the Bengaluru-based company.
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