Retail industry can lead the way in skilling, hiring PwDs: report

Says mainstreaming of persons with disabilities can add 5%-7% to global GDP; PwD levels of productivity at least 1.5 times higher when compared with abled employees

March 22, 2019 12:46 am | Updated 11:20 am IST - Mumbai

The NITI Aayog has projected that India has the potential to be a $10-trillion economy by 2030 from $2.5 trillion now, but there is one sure shot way to achieve this, perhaps even before target: bring the six to 10 crore population, who are People with Disabilities, (PwDs) into the mainstream.

A recent study on disability employment, titled ‘Disability Employment: Indian Retail Changing Equations’ by Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN) in association with HSBC, says mainstreaming of PwDs can add around 5-7% to the global gross domestic product (GDP). This is as per the World Banks assessment that leaving PwDs outside the economy translates to a foregone GDP of 5% to 7%.

The report said the retail industry can lead the way. Because 80% of the jobs in the sector are customer-facing, it not only provides employment to PwDs but also does the important job of sensitisation. Moreover, the entry barriers for employment are the lowest (the current qualification in India is a minimum of 10th grade).

With little skilling, most of them can be employed in mobile stores, fuel stations, malls, restaurants, cafes, medical stores and e-commerce), and companies employing PwDs have definitive business advantages. When compared with abled employees, PwD levels of productivity were at least 1.5 times higher. Besides, PwDs are seen to be more sincere, offer better quality of work, had lower attrition rates and also had a profound positive impact on customers and internal employees, the report said. Such companies also gained from government incentives and benefits.

India, the second most populated nation in the world, can make a huge impact on PwD employment and potentially become the global champion in this area.

Number understated

According to the India Census 2011, the number of PwDs in the country is 26.8 million, or 2.21% of the total population. But according to experts, the number is grossly misleading and understated. As per the TRRAIN-HSBC report, the actual number of PwD in the country is between 5% and 10% of the total population (between 6 crore and 10 crore). Interestingly, around 50% of the PwD population in India is in the employable age group (20-59 years). But around 46% of the PwD population is uneducated and 66% is unemployed (as compared to 9% for the abled population). Most of those employed work in the unorganised sector.

In India, people with movement, hearing and vision impairment constitute 58% of PwDs. Most of them are from the economically backward classes or from rural areas (69% ) and the 35% who have some form of education have studied between primary and middle school and are hence not considered employable.

TRRAIN and HSBC believe that a way to bring them out of the shadows is by providing meaningful employment; more importantly, to place them alongside the abled population for inclusive growth. They need to be seen and understood better by the rest of the abled population to realise that they are no different from the rest of them.

Setting achievable goals

TRRAIN, founded by retail industry veteran B.S. Nagesh, the non executive chairman of Shoppers Stop, runs an initiative called PANKH, which aims to train people with disabilities and provide them with employment opportunities in the retail industry. By 2020, the target is to train and place 10,000 PwDs annually.

TRRAIN has trained over 12,700 PwDs since 2011, of whom 72% have been employed in the retail sector, and the rest in other sectors.

Mr. Nagesh said, “We are focused on livelihood creation for PwDs. We don’t stop at skilling, and ensure they are placed. Today 200 companies from the retail sector are willing to hire PwDs.”

HSBC is of the belief that disadvantaged young people, especially women, have fewer choices and opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty and thus calls for a more concerted effort by the government, civil society, the private sector and individuals. “At HSBC we decided to focus on providing disadvantaged youth vocational and life skills training and financial literacy that leads to income generation and employment,” said Surendra Rosha, CEO, HSBC India.

Key findings

Mr. Rosha said. “One of our key learnings over the past four years has been the need for a specialised focus on skilling for people with disabilities (PwDs) who often are not included in mainstream education, nor in skills training programmes.”

The other learning is the need for an ecosystem-building approach and for investing in data, insights and frameworks that will enable a greater number of employers to hire PwDs, he said. Since 2016, HSBC has supported 13 organisations working with PwDs that have trained over 1,800 youth and placed 1,130. “It is our endeavour to bring skills development and placements for PwDs to the forefront of the employability agenda,” Mr. Rosha said.

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