93 per cent of disabled Emiratis are unemployed, says minister

People with disabilities are calling for more job opportunities

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - March 13, 2019: Her Excellency Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development speaks at the Special Olympics Opening Press Conference. Wednesday the 13th of March 2019 at ADNEC, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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More than 90 per cent of disabled Emiratis are unemployed, a UAE minister has said.

But Hessa Buhumaid, the Minister for Community Development, said the government is pushing to get more people with disabilities into the workplace.

During a recent Federal National Council meeting, Ms Buhumaid revealed that only seven per cent of disabled UAE citizens have jobs.

As the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi gets under way, the UAE has set out its mission to empower people with disabilities and ensure they feel an integral part of society.

Getting more disabled Emiratis into employment is a major part of this effort.

More than 250 of the 20,000 volunteers registered to help guide guests and organise cultural programmes across the capital’s venues at the Games are people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

It is hoped their participation in the running of the Games will promote inclusivity and show that people with disabilities can be valuable employees if they are given the chance.

A region-wide survey commissioned by the organisers of the Games found that two-thirds of UAE residents believe people with intellectual disabilities should be employed alongside people without disabilities in the workplace.

The Inclusion and Wellbeing education conference held in Dubai last month heard that special needs pupils must be given access to more vocational courses to ensure they are not left "sitting at home" after completing their studies.

Ms Buhumaid told FNC members that the number of Emiratis with disabilities stood at 19,151.

Of this number, 784 have vision loss, 2,335 are autistic, 5,510 are physically disabled, 6,227 have intellectual disability, 2063 have hearing impairment and 2,232 have multiple disabilities.

Fatimah Al Yamahi, 52, said her son Salem, 32, was "happier" and more sociable when in regular employment.

His hearing impairment has left him with limited job opportunities and affected his spirit and self-esteem after he lost his job in 2013, she said.

“He used to be happier, social and eager to improve himself but after he left his job he became unsocial and the smallest things make him angry,” said Ms Al Yamahi.

“I’m a mother and I can’t see one of my children suffer and do nothing, I always encourage him and stand by his side but I know that without a job he will stay like this,” she said.

Salem, who lives with his mother in Al Qurayyah town in Fujairah, was working as a data entry clerk in the governmental sector before resigning from his position.

Another disabled Emirati said that employers should reconsider the salaries offered to people with disabilities.

“The salaries are very low and don’t cover the expenses,” said Ali Al Murshidi, 30, from Dibba, Fujairah, who has an intellectual disability.

“I receive around Dh5,300 as monthly allowances from the government and it will stop once I get a job, therefore, I need a salary not less than Dh10,000 in order to cover my expenses, transportation and get married,” he said.

Mr Al Murshidi holds a high school degree, participated in many volunteering activities and received training in a number of governmental entities.

“I can’t just sit and do nothing, I always apply for jobs with the help of the community development centre in Fujairah but the salaries are not encouraging and I need to find a good salary in order to get married and establish a family.”