Tāngata Whaikaha in the Service sector

Tāngata Whaikaha in the Service sector

Disability can be understood not only as a physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment, but also in the way that wider attitudes, behaviours, and the built environment can inhibit full and equal participation in different aspects of life, including work. There are some challenges in accessing quality information about the prevalence and experience of these different aspects of disability, especially when narrowing the scope to the Service sector.

Current data suggests that 2.6% of the Service sector workforce identify as tāngata whaikaha (compared to 6% tāngata whaikaha in the total population).

However, other sources suggest as many as a quarter of New Zealanders might have a disability. This is indicative of the limited data and understanding on tāngata whaikaha in the workforce, with varied understandings of how people identify and navigate the workforce.

Tāngata whaikaha overall have lower rates of employment and lower incomes than non-disabled people. Disabled people are more likely to face significant barriers to entry and participation in employment and also experience ongoing adverse labour market outcomes.

They may face social stigma that adversely impacts job opportunities. This is despite evidence of the importance of education and meaningful work in supporting economic, social, and cultural wellbeing outcomes for disabled people, not to mention the economic and social-good benefits for employers of having a diverse workforce.

A significant barrier is the prevalence of negative employer perceptions around hiring disabled people. Because of their limited exposure and experiences working with disabled people, employers may struggle to understand what is involved in hiring a disabled person. There are often misconceptions around the financial cost of hiring a disabled person, workplace adjustments, perceived productivity, and the skills that they can bring to an organisation. This lack of understanding can have adverse effects both for employers, who miss out on the advantages and benefits of hiring disabled people, and disabled people who miss out on workforce opportunities.

In addition, it is important to recognise the impact of intersectional identities. For example, it has been found that tāngata whaikaha Māori had lower levels of trust with the education system. This has significant impacts on accessibility of education and subsequently tāngata whaikaha Māori ability to navigate the workforce upon starting their careers.

It is clear that we need to establish and develop relationships with disabled people and networks to guide our strategies in making the Service sector more accessible.

On the foundations of this relationship, we can amplify the voices of disabled communities in establishing the attitudes, practices, and environments that fully and equally enable people to participate in the Service sector.