Recent articles cited arguments against having a quota on the number of people with disabilities in the workplace in terms of its impact on the labour market and the possibility of calls for similar quotas for other minority communities (Just 5 in 100 persons here with disabilities have jobs; and Hiring persons with disabilities: Quota won't work, says MSF, both published on Feb 11).
However, the case for having a quota for people with disabilities is compelling.
First, the dismal employment statistics for this group - only 5 per cent of whom have jobs - means that as a country, we are missing out on the economic input of more than 160,000 potential workers, and in a tightening labour market at that.
Second, as Singapore's population ages rapidly and experiences a higher incidence of disability, employers will inevitably have to hire or retain an increasing number of people with disabilities.
If they do not have any experience in working with or accommodating this group, it would affect the labour force's overall productivity.
Public education campaigns by agencies like SG Enable and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) have highlighted that people with disabilities are able and willing to work. They also perform as well as their non-disabled peers in the workplace, as long as they are provided appropriate support, access and, most importantly, the opportunity to be hired in the first place.
This is a chance for the Government to tackle the issue in a concrete way - by mandating an official quota for the employment of people with disabilities in the civil service.
Showing how employees with disabilities are indeed an essential and integral part of our public sector would do much to encourage the private sector to explore similar measures.
Such a move will also supplement the current approach of using incentives and schemes to promote the employment of our citizens with disabilities.
Alvan Yap Boon Sheng