Bandt reignites discussion on quotas

Mon 24 March 2014

Recently the Australian Greens’ Adam Bandt introduced a private Members’ Bill to require the Australian Public Service (APS) to double its employment of people with disability over the next five years.  The bill also requires the same commitment to employment of people from non-English speaking backgrounds, with the goal that “workplaces should reflect the diversity of Australian society and that everyone should have access to meaningful paid employment”.

The introduction of quotas, or targets, for the employment of people with disability, along with other minority groups, is a fairly contentious issue.  Some people believe that introducing quotas runs the risk of reinforcing a ‘special jobs for special people’ mentality, whereas others believe that quotas can provide impetus to offer assistance that might be required by people facing significant barriers to employment or promotion.

In the United States, the US Department of Labor has just set a new goal for federal contractors and sub-contractors that at least 7% of each job group across their workforce be qualified individuals with disability.  This new rule came into effect on 24 March 2014, and has been implemented to “make it easier for employers to tap into a large, diverse pool of qualified candidates.”

The United States has a long history of Affirmative Action, or what we call positive discrimination.  Quotas to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants on the basis of colour, religion, sex or national origin have been in place for decades, so the inclusion of people with disability as an additional minority group is not a huge leap.

In Australia however, we like to think we focus more on finding the best person for the job, regardless of gender, Indigenous background, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or disability.  This works well in theory, when all barriers for minority groups are identified and removed, however in practice it means that people from these groups are routinely underrepresented across the board.

In recent discussions, leaders in the disability arena are increasingly changing their minds and beginning to support the idea of quotas.

Please join the AND LinkedIn Discussion Group to let us know if you think quotas for the employment of people with disability would be beneficial for Australia.

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