The aim of the present general comment is to clarify the obligations of States parties regarding the right to work and employment as enshrined in article 27 of the Convention. The Convention sets out the principles and standards of the right of people with disabilities to work and employment, and provides the basis for States parties to meet their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly target 8.5, on achieving, by 2030, full and productive employment and decent work for all persons, including persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
The right to work is a fundamental right, essential for realizing other human rights, and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity. The right to work also contributes to the survival of individuals and to that of their family, and, insofar as work is freely chosen or accepted, to their development and recognition within the community. The right to work is recognized in several international and regional legal instruments. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights proclaims the right to work in a general sense in article 6 and explicitly develops the individual dimension of the right to work through the recognition in article 7 of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work, in particular safe working conditions. The collective dimension of the right to work is addressed in article 8, which enunciates the right of all persons to form trade unions and join the trade union of their choice and the right of trade unions to function freely. The Committee has drawn upon its own jurisprudence, and that of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other human rights treaty bodies, to develop the present general comment.
Meaningful work and employment are essential to a person’s economic security, physical and mental health, personal well – being and sense of identity. However, the Committee is aware that a value system known as ableism adversely affects the opportunities for many persons with disabilities to have meaningful work and employment. Ableism and its impacts have been described as “a value system that considers certain typical characteristics of body and mind as essential for living a life of value. Based on strict standards of appearance, functioning and behaviour, ableist ways of thinking consider the disability experience as a misfortune that leads to suffering and disadvantage and invariably devalues human life.” Ableism is the foundation of the medical and charity models of disability that leads to social prejudice, inequality and discrimination against persons with disabilities, as it underpins legislation, policies and practices such as segregated employment, for example “sheltered workshops” and can result in involuntary participation in the informal economy.
Persons with disabilities face barriers to gaining access to and exercising their right to work and employment in the open labour market, on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities face high unemployment rates, lower wages, instability, lower standards in hiring conditions, lack of accessibility of the work environment, and are also less likely than other persons to be appointed to managerial positions when they are formally employed, all of which are exacerbated for women with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are more likely to earn lower wages than persons without disabilities and are more likely to be in vulnerable employment, including being employed in the informal sector, being self – employed or engaging in part – time employment. Data and other evidence indicate that these differences particularly affect persons with disabilities on the grounds of age, gender, sex, ethnicity, place of residence and other grounds.
Evolving conditions in economies and the labour market create new challenges and opportunities to ensure the right to work. New technologies, including artificial intelligence and the shift to digital work, can create new barriers or forms of discrimination as well as offering new pathways into work and new forms of employment. Economic transformations, such as the transition to a green economy or the response to crises, create opportunities for inclusion as well as the threat of leaving people behind. Article 27 of the Convention incorporates several interdependent and interrelated rights within the right to work, including, in article 27 (1) (b), the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to just and favourable conditions of work and to safe working conditions, including protection from harassment, and, in article 27 (1) ©, the collective dimension of the right to work and the exercise by persons with disabilities of their labour and trade union rights on an equal basis with others. The aim of the present general comment is to provide a comprehensive overview of the obligations of States parties under article 27, considering the interdependence of the measures on the right to work listed in that article, and the interrelationship of the right to work and employment with the provisions of other articles of the Convention, such as those on general obligations (art. 4), equality and non – discrimination (art. 5), women with disabilities (art. 6), accessibility (art. 9), equal recognition before the law (art. 12), access to justice (art. 13), freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse (art. 16), living independently (art. 19), education (art. 24), habilitation and rehabilitation (art. 26) and an adequate standard of living and social protection (art. 28).
Policy and methodological publications related :
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities : Advocacy Toolkit
- From Exclusion to Equality : Realizing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities : Guidance for Human Rights Monitors