What Do Employers in Tanzania Think About Hiring Persons with Disabilities?

Gamariel Mboya, Spring 2019 PFP-IDE alumnus, presents new research into why Tanzania’s landmark inclusive employment legislation has not transformed economic opportunities for persons with disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities in Tanzania face many barriers when it comes to equal opportunities for employment. Employment rates are especially low for this group and the majority rely on informal sector work, such as self-employment and small businesses.  Despite the presence of legal frameworks that encourage employment for persons with disabilities, inclusive legislation has not been implemented effectively. Most notably, the Persons with Disabilities Act Number 9 of 2010, Section 31 requires that employers with more than 20 workers to have at least 3% of their employees be persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, employment rates for people with disabilities remain far lower than for people without disabilities.

This article is based on a short survey on disability employment that was administered to 38 respondents from 100 private companies in Tanzania. This happened during the High-Level Workshop on Harnessing Tanzania’s Investment Potential Towards Enhancing Sustainable Growth and the Future of Work. The High-Level Workshop was held on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam.

Gamariel High-Level Workshop in Tanzania Banner

The survey enabled inclusive employment advocates in Tanzania to learn more about employers’ attitudes and hiring practices towards people with disabilities. The survey showed that there are three major issues that block hiring of persons with disabilities. These are:

  1. Low awareness of employers about disability employment;
  2. Lack of enabling environments to support disability employment;
  3. Little effort in training persons with disabilities on how to build strong job applications and compete in the job market.

This reveals the paradox of disability employment in the country. In recent years the government has promoted an inclusive education policy that emphasizes enrollment of children with disabilities in the education system.  However, a majority of youth with disabilities end up suffering when they try to secure employment towards the end of their education.

The survey clearly makes it evident that employers’ perception towards providing job placement to persons with disabilities can affect to a large extent the fate of persons with disabilities who are seeking employment. In the survey, 35% of the respondents pointed out that their limited awareness about disability employment is the most significant stumbling block that prevents them from embracing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. 81% of the employer-respondents were aware of their obligation to employ persons with disabilities in accordance with the law. This shows that employers’ knowledge of the law and their obligation to adhere to it is not sufficient to get them to embrace disability employment.

The High-Level Workshop survey also revealed the important need to create a proper mechanism that will prepare persons with disabilities for employment. Employers who responded to the survey at the event pointed out that they fail to employ persons with disabilities due to misunderstandings about what the job position requires and the limitations that persons have due to their disabilities. This reflects a myth that there are no job tasks that are suitable to persons with disabilities, but it also shows the demand for the creation of an avenue that prepares persons with disabilities to be competitive for employment. This will also equip employers to set job positions that will accommodate persons with disabilities.

The campaign to promote inclusive disability employment needs to go beyond the legal framework and institution-based arrangements that are in place to support it. In order to succeed, employers must truly understand the process of creating a well-prepared, enabling environment that will enhance persons with disabilities, and the value of enabling them to secure employment in the job market.

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Gamariel Mboya is head of administration at the Aga Khan University in Tanzania. He was a Spring 2019 PFP-IDE Fellow at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.