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Employment Issues of Disabled Persons

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Table of contents

  1. Persons with Disabilities in Employment
  2. From Liberalism to Third Way
    From Medical Model to Recovery Model
  3. Existing Policies on Persons with Disabilities
  4. Work Orientation and Placement Scheme
    Support Programme for Employees with Disabilities
    Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organizations Recognition Scheme
  5. Conclusion

Although Hong Kong is a multicultural and diverse city, disabled persons are still gradually experiencing social exclusion. According to Census and Statistics Department (2014), it was estimated that there exists 179, 900 disabled persons who were aged 18 to 64, but only 39. 1% of them were economically active, much lower than the general rate of 72. 8%. Meanwhile, they had a higher rate of unemployment than the general rate, which are 6. 7% and 3. 7% respectively. It causes a decline in disabled persons’ well-being and increases the financial burden both in their families and welfare system, which can be considered as a general social problem. The high level of unemployment rate among disabled persons can be explained by the following reason including inadequate policies carried out by the government, insufficient vocational training and the social exclusion. Hence, it is necessary for employers to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against disabled persons.

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Persons with Disabilities in Employment

From Liberalism to Third Way

According to Heywood (2013), liberalism emphasized the importance of free market and the government intervention should treat as last resort for solving intractable social problem. It is believed that individual liberty will be diminish if the government intervene the market. Therefore, it is argued that individual should bear their own welfare and the government should withdraw from the welfare provision. Under liberalism, the residual welfare provision model is used. The government only provide limited welfare resources to the disabled, or only at the minimal level. When the working abilities of the disabled is weaker than the able-bodied people, employers may find no advantages and no duty to employ the disabled due to different additional help needed. They believed that their unemployment is caused by their individual deficit and malfunctioning. As there are problems in running the liberalism model, the welfare provision perspective is turning from liberalism to the third way. Under the third way, the provision of welfare service is serves as the second chance to new work. It is a concept that walks between laissez-faire capitalism and traditional socialism which advocate a compromise between the two. Disabled persons is treated as human resources rather than social burden. The government aims to empower them in order to contribute to the economic development. Under third way, the welfare provision focuses on social investment, such as education, vocational training and accommodation. With these social investment, the disabled will receive trainings which enables them to enter the job market. Such as, the government has injected total $450 million in the social enterprises development since 2002. There were over 574 social enterprises in Hong Kong which provide over 7, 000 working opportunities for the socially disadvantaged. However, there were just 78 social enterprises per million population in Hong Kong. It showed that it is not well-developed yet compared with those 1, 083 in UK.

From Medical Model to Recovery Model

According to the medical model, disability is seen as a medical problem that resides in the individual. The impairment is understood as abnormalities that would ideally be cured or fixed by medicine in order to live a normal life. It defines disability in a fundamentally negative way with objectively pitiable and bad condition. This medical model also shapes widely in the philosophy of welfare provision. The goal of government intervention tend to focus on rehabilitation and amelioration of impairment to the greatest extent possible. Such as, there is a variety of day training and vocational rehabilitation service, including the provision of shelters workshop and integrated vocational training center which focus on basic skill training and routine task. However, this approach neglects the importance of providing open and fair employment opportunities for disabled persons as normal.

The labelling effect also leads to the social exclusion which reduce the employment opportunities of disabled persons. Employer tends to consider disabled persons as sick and being in need of special help which requires them to provide extra support and resources in the working environment. They also tends to categories the able-bodied as superior to people with disabilities. Consequently, this may create low expectations for disabled persons and reduce the employment opportunities for them. Even the government has yet to show its positive encouragement in hiring disabled persons. According to Civil Service Bureau (2017), the number of persons with disabilities being employed in the civil service is only 1. 9% of the total amount of civil servants. The government has been gradually changing to recovery model since 2008. The recovery model contains developing a positive identity and valued social roles which promotes the potential of the disabled through the mental support from their friends and communities, such as peer specialists, community navigator. Such as the government announced the pilot scheme for training suitable ex-mentally ill persons to serve as peer supporters to disabled persons. However, the government still not carry out policies to provide high degree of economic incentive to employ the disabled persons. Therefore, the unemployment rate among them remain high.

Existing Policies on Persons with Disabilities

Work Orientation and Placement Scheme

The Work Orientation and Placement Scheme (WOPS) announced by the Labour Department in 2005. This scheme aims to encourage employers to offer job opportunities to disabled persons through the provision of allowance. It also aims to enhance the competitiveness and employability of disabled persons through related pre-employment training. Under the WOPS, employers who hire disabled persons by providing on-the-job coaching and related pre-employment training will be granted an allowance for each employee with disabilities. Each participating employer will receive an allowance with a maximum amount of $51, 000 per disabled persons up to nine months. Also, the work orientation period extended from two to three months since 2018. The disabled employee will be free to decide whether to continue the employment after completion of the work orientation period. However, the retention rate of WOPS participants is low. According to Audit Commission (2014), there were a total of 385 jobs for disabled persons created since the commencement of these programs while a total of 1, 882 disabled persons had worked in these job. It is showed that many had joined and left the job. Moreover, there were about 65% of the WOPS participants only worked for a period of eight months or less while their employers might be still receiving the allowance under the WOPS. Therefore, a one-off subsidy program cannot offer long term financial incentive for employers to hire disabled persons which not adequate enough to maintain long-term employment effectively.

Support Programme for Employees with Disabilities

The objective of Support Programme for Employees with Disabilities (SPED) is to assist the disabled persons to participate in the open market with an equal opportunity. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides a maximum of $20, 000 for each disabled persons to purchase auxiliary equipment and modification of workplace in order to reduce the barriers that disabilities may face in the workplace. For the particular cases, $40000 can be provided for equipment if its cost has exceeded $20000.

As Po Leung Kuk is entrusted by SWD to serve as the SPED Administrator, it helps to promote SPED territoriality by encourage and assist employers to take part in the SPED, compose assessments and give suggestion on the applications for the Assessment Committee. According to the Po Leung Kuk Statistics Report (2018b), the number of SPED assessment and follow-up reports has completed to 6 and 7 cases from January to March 2018 respectively.

However, the cost of repairing and maintaining the auxiliary equipment or modification works will not cover by SPED. These may decrease the intention of employers to apply this programme. Moreover, SWD only assign one administrator or SPED and PLK may not have the ability to contact all the disabilities in Hong Kong. It is suggested that SWD should increase more administrators to participate in this programme to improve the service usage.

Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organizations Recognition Scheme

Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organizations Recognition Scheme (the Scheme) announced by the Labour and Welfare Bureau in 2013. It helps to encourage the NGOs, public organizations, and commercial sector to provide job opportunities for the disabled persons. Participants should encourage the employment of people with disabilities in different aspects, such as promoting other institutions to participate in the Scheme.

The institutions who participate in this Scheme will become a communist institution and will be awarded an Inclusive Organization logo. They may use this logo during the participation period, and propagate to the public that they has fulfilled their social responsibility. There are total number of 612 organizations who participate into the Scheme until June 2018. However, this scheme is a volunteer-based scheme. Since it does not have any legal effect, the employer can decide whether to join this scheme or not by themselves. It create low incentive for them to employ disabled persons. According to the Companies Registry (2018), there are a total number of 1, 400, 165 companies has registered in the Companies Registry. Compare to the number of participants of the Scheme, the disparity is really high. This also shows the inadequate coverage and ineffectiveness of the Scheme.

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To conclude, this essay highlights the difficulties faced by disabled people regarding their employment. Concerning the personal factor, these difficulties increases the financial burdens on their families and adversely affects their well-being. In order to cope with this problems, the governmental and NGOs has implemented some policies like pre-employment training courses to tackle the issue in short-run. Yet, more effective policies are required to maintain the financial incentive for disabled in the long-run.

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