Ivica Robic, Member EBU Social Policy Commission

It has been said a lot on meaning of employment for the blind people and about problems rising when a blind person tries to find a job. I am certain that everybody attending this conference is well acqauinted with that. Therefore I consider it is not necessary to waste time on repeating what is already well known.

Today I would like to point out two systems which should help blind persons in finding a job. I would like to stress characteristics, advanages and disadvantages of both, and make their comparison, if possible.

First model I am going to talk about today is the quota/proportional employment system.A simple research on it has been made for the needs of the EBU-s Comission for Employment and Education. A questionnaire has been distributed to the EBU members. 23 member states have answered, which makes a litlle more than 51 %. 14 countries have legally regulated quota system of employment for the persons with disabilities, and 9 countries do not have this model. From other answers it can be concluded that this system is pretty stable.This is to say that 2 countries which do not have quota system at the moment have abandoned it, and 2 countries not having the quota system at the moment want to introduce it. Also, most of the countries having quota system do not expect to loose it in the near future.

The efficiency of the quota system in employment of the blind is different in applying countries.It seems that there are many factors influenting these differences. However, the social system of the country,its relation towards people with disabilities and acting of the state as the legal system is of great importance. Also, very important are the elements accompanying the obligation of the company to employ person with disability. It is, before all, giving privilegies to the employer employing the person with disability and tax charges for those who do not respect obligation to employ a person with disability. It is very important to have a certain fund to collect all the resources from employers who do not employ people with disabilities and to use those resources to stimulate such employment. It can be used to equip working places with the specific equipment, to provide assistent for the working person with disability if he needs one or to provide additional education or professional rehabilitation for the persons with disability.

According to most of the experiences, the quota system is better applied in the public institutions and companies then in privately owned companies. In 4 of the countries who have obligatory quota system of employment , the obligation stands only for the public companies and institutions.

Advantages of the quota system of employment are:

- There is a constant instutional pressure on the employers to employ persons with disabilities
- Additional resources are provided into a fund stimulating the employment of people with diabilities
- Other favourable conditions are made to increase employment of persons with disabilities. For example, in one country, a company which does not employ persons with disabilities is obliged to buy products from specialized companies which employ these people.
- A larger interest is shown to employ, for example blind persons within "the traditional jobs for the blind" such as telephone operator, Call center operator, fisiotherapist- masseur etc.
- There is a vider range of professions and companies which can employ blind people and other persons with disabilities
- Finally, total number of employed persons with disability is increased

Of course, quota system of employment has some disadvantages. Some of them are:

- Many employers would rather pay some compensation or tax than employ person with disability
- People with disabilities are usually working on the lowest payed working places
- Employers consider quota system to be a punishment or discrimination
- Whole system is focused on disability not on the working capcity of the person
- Quota system of employment does not give a spcific chance to blind people , because employers prefer people with other disabilities, in case they decide to employ someone according to the quota system
- Education of the blind people to work within the quota system is more complicated and more expensive, which is especially significant in small countries

System of reserved working places has both advantages and disadvantages. I will talk from the experince from my country, Croatia. Up to year 2000. Croatia had a law giving advantage to blind people when applying for certain jobs. This jobs were telephone operator, packing of some products, medical masseur and fisiotherapist. Thanks to this law, most of blind people were employed. It is important to stress that this law was succesfully applied from 1979. which was a period of socialist social system. Namely, this system, besides social sensybility had also a very strong centralistic characteristic, so laws , dictated by the only strong political party were strictly obeyed. Unfortunatelly, during whole time of application of this law unions of people with other disabilities were complaining the fact that this law considers only blind people.

My opinion is that advantages of this system are:

- By establishing reserved working places a priority is made for people with disabilties to get a job they objectivly can do. We have to have in mind that total number of professions for blind people is objectivly smaller.
- It is more simlple and cheaper to educate blind people for reserved working places, considering designing of the working place and getting necesarry equipment
- It is easier to find companies and real working places with potential and actual possibility to employ blind people

On the other hand, disadvantages are:

- A kind of segregation and gettoisation of the blind considering type of job and possibility of employment
- Non-flexibility of blind people in finding other job in case there are certain reasons for it or just a wish to change profession
- Extreme sensibility to changes in technology of work and in production orientation of the company

Finally, let me conclude:
Both quota system and system of the reserved working places have advantages and disadvantages. What is important is that both systems positivelly influence the employment of the blind people. So this two models should not be opposed, and we should not exclude other methods such as individual approach or existance of specialised companies for people with disabilities, in our efforts to employ blind people. On the contrary, it would be good if they acted paralelly. In other words reserved working places can be included in framework of quota system and thus help in employment of blind people and other persons with disability and significantly narrowed possibilities of finding profession.