22 november 2012

Meeting on job placement for the disabled


Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, everyone. We have gathered at Moscow University of Humanities and Economics to discuss employment opportunities for the disabled, a subject that is important for many Russians. I have just talked with the university graduates, postgraduate students, and those who are about to complete their studies, and it is clear that the problem is acute.

Today there are nearly 3.5 million people with disabilities in Russia who are of productive age. Only 20% of them are employed, but not where they would like to work considering their education. They work wherever they have been able to find employment. Nevertheless, an opportunity to get a good degree and have a career in their chosen field is something that all people, disabled or not, need for psychological wellbeing and stability. We must provide the disabled with such a chance. It is not an easy task. This is not the first time I’ve discussed the subject, but I believe this to be vitally important because attention to the issue at the top level sets the political trend and the definite pattern of events. We recently discussed the subject with the rector. Moscow provides some opportunities, it is a large city and can create new jobs for many disabled people. The situation in the regions is different. Some efforts are made in major cities, but nothing is done in smaller cities or towns.

Now as regards the quality of education. It is vital that the disabled have access to good education. For that we must create inclusive environment in schools, specialised secondary education institutions and universities. The university where we are holding this meeting provides such education. The students I talked with are happy here. They say they had doubts when they applied for admission as to the quality of education, whether it was tailored to students with disabilities. But they are satisfied. They have a choice of various majors. The draft federal law on education that was passed in the first reading in the State Duma gives a detailed description of the procedure for teaching the disabled. This has been done for the first time. Federal state educational standards will be drafted. The draft law was discussed in detail with public associations of the disabled. I hope that its adoption will ensure quality education for the disabled at educational institutions of all types. The right is guaranteed by the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Russia ratified this year.

Today Russia has 32 higher educational institutions that have been specially adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. This would seem a considerable number, but on the other hand there are not enough such schools, having as they do slightly over 5,000 students from this category. In all, there were about 20,000 people with disabilities enrolled in higher educational institutions in 2011. Our task is to adapt other institutions of higher learning, which means increasing the number of higher educational establishments capable of training people with disabilities to at least 25%. This target has been included in our plans. For this purpose, we can use the resources of the Education Federal Targeted Programme, and appropriate measures have been incorporated in the Government-approved draft state education development programme for the period until 2020.

The state should also take a number of steps to help people with disabilities and facilitate their employment. Earlier this year, the employment service has helped nearly 60,000 disabled persons, or 40% of applicants, to find jobs. But, or course, the situation is very motley because this country is very varied. A number of regions have a store of valuable experience. We have their representatives with us today and I hope they will report briefly on what has been done and what problems they have. In any event, the Government will continue implementing the programme that envisages the creation of specially equipped workplaces for people with disabilities in the labour market. On 15 October, I endorsed a set of measures that will enable us to create more than 14,000 jobs of this kind annually during three years. About 900 million roubles will be allocated for this purpose in 2013 and approximately the same amount in 2014 and 2015.


Nevertheless, the efficacy of these steps depends on the extent of social partnership. I have just discussed this topic with some graduates of the university we are visiting today. In other words, these steps should be fully coordinated with the business community. The important thing is that companies should duly honour their employment commitments with regard to people with disabilities once they assume them. We also have here a number of businesses that employ disabled people. I would like to hear their opinion on this score because, to my regret, this kind of experience is just emerging in our country. In this sense, we are far behind other states, but we must act, not huff and puff. In any case, an exchange of views on this subject is needed as is a subsequent translation of most valuable experience into legislation. I am sure that certain changes we are introducing to the Labour Code and the electronic signature law – they are past the first reading in the State Duma – will be important amendments as well.

These amendments will be useful for people with disabilities. In this context, this issue opens up huge opportunities for people with disabilities who work remotely.

Of course, we will continue to support public organisations of disabled people, which help disabled persons to find jobs, with the help of federal allocations. The relevant subsidies will total 1.2 billion roubles next year.

So, I wanted to make this brief summary before our meeting. There are two ministers present here who will be able to speak. Colleagues, please tell us briefly about the employment of disabled persons and about the situation with their vocational training. After that, I would like our colleagues who are present here to make brief statements about what is being done, and about what else can be done. Mr Topilin (Maxim Topilin, Minister of Labour and Social Security), you have the floor. Please.

Maxim Topilin: Thank you, Mr Medvedev, colleagues. I will try to be brief and to report on the measures being implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security together with our colleagues. I would like to say that we conduct all work connected with the implementation of the “Accessible Environment” programme and the employment of disabled persons in the regions and at the federal level in extremely close contact with all national societies. Otherwise it achieving any results would be impossible for us. We proceed from the fact that, in my estimate, our approach towards this issue has changed completely over the past three to four years, and that we have started working along entirely different lines. What am I referring to? In the 1990s and the early 2000s, we had only one instrument, namely, labour quotas for employers, that made it possible to regulate issues concerning the work of disabled persons. Previously, these labour quotas were stipulated at federal levels, and they were subsequently transferred to Russian regions. But that was a certain mechanism, one which lacked incentives, and which forced employers to create jobs. We have analysed this practical experience, and it was absolutely obvious that employers …

Dmitry Medvedev: Ignored this?

Maxim Topilin: …or simply disregarded these provisions. Although it was far from all employers who disregarded these provisions, but it was an ineffective mechanism that did not suit anyone, including employers, disabled persons and the state.

As a result, we converted to an entirely different system. This year, we have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and we have drafted the “Accessible Environment” programme. That’s why we are acting differently. We understand that, on the one hand, we must help disabled persons. But, on the other hand, we realise that the state stipulates additional encumbrances for employers regarding the hiring of disabled persons. This includes a shorter work week, additional terms and conditions, as well as additional workstation requirements. Consequently, we opted for a strategy whereby the state undertook to subsidise the creation of jobs for disabled persons in a particular way. We have already tested this practical concept during the crisis. This concept has proved effective, and it is being implemented still further during the fulfillment of presidential executive orders, which stipulate the creation of 14,200 jobs for disabled persons annually. You have mentioned this in your speech. This work is underway, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that, when you were President and when you met with disabled persons, you instructed us to revise our regulatory documents, including an order of the Ministry of Labour, which expressly forbade first-category disabled persons from working.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I remember that rather emotional dialogue.

Maxim Topilin: Everything was done in line with positive aspects. The idea was that disabled people should not work and could not work, or that they should not work too much. In reality, these requests and the objective situation show that we should provide this opportunity. Any disabled person unable to work for medical reasons will make the relevant decision, or there will be some contra-indications. We amended this order, and we stipulated assistance for first-category disabled persons with third-level work restrictions. And this restriction has been removed. I believe that we have resolved this issue, and that we now have control over this situation.

As for the various barriers that must be removed during the resolution of the employment issue, this certainly includes financial assistance, which I have just mentioned, and which will help to maintain and create jobs for disabled persons. Certainly, we realise that this implies general restrictions in the accessible environment. People are often unable to leave their homes and to reach their places of work. Transit systems, underpasses and overpasses are not suited for people with disabilities. Disabled persons are not always helped by the concerned individuals and assistants, etc. That’s why we are trying to gradually resolve these issues step by step in line with the “Accessible Environment” programme.

In 2012, pilot projects will conclude in three regions. This year we have had insufficient allocations for financing the creation of an accessible environment in regions. But starting in 2014, we will have a yearly allocation of 4.5 billion roubles for this purpose. That is a considerable amount. With these funds, we will be able to involve ten regions at a time in the process of creating an accessible environment.

As for schools and education. Let us consider the situation in institutions of higher education. This is reflected in the state programme Education. However the first stage is to develop accessible education in schools. This process is being implemented as part of the accessible environment programme. By 2015, we will have developed an accessible environment at some 20% of schools. This issue is being addressed.  

You have said that we help people with disabilities through employment agencies. Yes, we have this task. The Ministry of Labour website and the Federal Service for Labour and Employment website have a resource called Work in Russia, which was created during the crisis. We have created special sections there for providing employment to people with disabilities – special jobs, so that people with disabilities can use this information resource. I think it has produced some results. While in 2009 some 27% of people with disabilities found jobs through employment agencies, in 2012 we expect this figure to reach 37%. The general level of providing employment for people without disabilities is 60%, so this is the level that we should pursue. We should move on from 40% to 60%, so that people can have equal opportunities – we are working towards this end, too.

You said that we continue financing jobs created by employers.  I just want to highlight that we are increasing financing from the federal budget year by year. An employer can spend on average up to 300,000 roubles, or even more, for a job for an individual with disabilities, and this is a substantial amount. Currently we co-finance from the budget between 50,000 and 100,000 roubles, and we hope that employers will actively support our programmes, and that we will be able to increase these standards year by year.

Currently we  have prepared a draft government resolution on financing the programme supporting jobs for people with disabilities in 2013 – we will submit it in the Government next week. We have prepared distribution for regions, too. As soon as the draft resolution is signed we will begin to implement these programmes.

I’d like to briefly highlight the plan that you have mentioned. We have signed a plan of measures concerning the provision of employment, on the one hand, and education, on the other hand. Currently we have no documents making it possible to establish any requirements for working places of people with disabilities. Our law includes the term “specialised working place.” There are no additional documents or recommendations on a working place for an individual with a hearing disability or a wheelchair-bound person. So, on the one hand, under this plan we have previewed the work on assessing the desire to work among people with disabilities, because this is not a large figure – 20%, but we have looked into the EU indicator, which does not differ much – 30-35%. It would be wrong to say that we don’t work with people with disabilities or that they have no jobs. Nevertheless we can do much better.  

Dmitry Medvedev: But these figures, you know… First, figures are always deceitful…

Maxim Topilin: That is true.

Dmitry Medvedev: …and second, 20% and 35%  - that's almost twice as high. And finally, third, there is the issue of the level [of living standards] of unemployed people with disabilities in Russia and abroad. Why do Russian people with disabilities still want to work? Because they don’t get enough money. That is obvious. Should their living standards be higher, perhaps some of them would opt for other activities. 

Maxim Topilin: Yes. And therefore we are currently developing a draft law extending powers to the Government or a Ministry (we are discussing this with my colleagues) to establish requirements for working places. Then, on the one hand, the recommendations are for employers, so that they realise that they should create different working places for people with different disabilities; and, on the other hand, as you have said, we are working on this so that we do not create an enormous burden for employers. The plan is envisaged for three years, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as provided for by the presidential executive order. We will conduct this work together with public organisations that include people with disabilities and with employers. We have another route for support – supporting four national societies (of people with disabilities). Because the deduction rates of non-budget funds are set to increase, national societies have asked for support next year. If the federal budget allocated 950 million roubles in 2012, we will add 332 million roubles in 2013. This decision has been made and supported by the State Duma. These funds will be channelled to national societies to create jobs. Thank you.   

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.

Mr Livanov (Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Education and Science), please go ahead.

Dmitry Livanov: Mr Medvedev, colleagues! Our primary goal is to guarantee the equal right to education for all people, including people with disabilities. We want these guarantees to have an understandable instrument of implementation. 

I’ll mention two major objectives. The first is the painless transition from the level of general education to the level of secondary and higher vocational education. The law presently establishes freedom of choice, or rather the right to choose the form of enrolment in a higher or secondary vocational institution. Children with disabilities can make the choice – either to take a unified state exam… Every year, we register more children with disabilities passing the unified exam. In 2012, there were 4,000 children, which is four times more than two years ago. Of course, we must create the necessary conditions for this. All children with disabilities taking the unified state exam have easy access to classrooms, the services of an assistant who renders technical support, the option of using various technical means during the examination, and additional time for an exam if it is needed. Every region has offices for passing the exam, which are equipped taking into account the various psychophysical development conditions of children in this category. For example, the Stavropol Territory has 16 such offices, and the Tomsk Region has 14. I have just mentioned two regions that operate actively here. However, every Russian region has conditions assisting children with disabilities to pass the unified state exam. 

In addition to the unified exam, children can pass traditional oral and written exams. It is important to take into account the peculiarities of the psychophysical development and the state of health of these graduates. As a rule, children pass exams at the schools that they attend. It is possible to combine both types of exams if a child wishes to do so. If the unified state exam results cannot be used, children with disabilities can pass entrance exams at an educational institution according to the procedure established by any given institution. As you mentioned, there are 32 higher educational institutions specially oriented towards people with disabilities, and this approach works well here.  

The second objective is creating an accessible environment at higher educational institutions. Today, only 5% of these institutions meet international standards in terms of having favourable conditions for educating people with disabilities. Our objective is to increase this proportion to 25% by 2020, and we will do this... This will create opportunities and guarantees for every student with disabilities to receive a higher education without any restrictions.

Of course, the buildings and the projects under construction completely comply with standards. We do not fund projects that do not take into account this factor. For example, the Far Eastern Federal University campus fully meets the highest international standards in terms of an accessible environment. And, of course, we will continue to work towards this end. Thank you. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Livanov.


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Dmitry Medvedev’s closing remarks:

What you’ve said here is what I heard the institute graduates say on two counts, in particular that the regional authorities should be allowed to decide on the quota for groups of less than 100 people. I will issue the relevant instruction and I want this to be included in the minutes of this meeting. As for providing incentives for employers, that could be the most difficult and the most important part of our work, because this is obviously a two-way street. We cannot simply limit ourselves to promising businesses incentives if they employ people with disabilities and think that everything will be fine.

The world is a complex entity, and so the state, in the broad sense of the word, including the federal Government and the regional and municipal authorities, must consider ways of cooperating with businesses so that, apart from encouraging their humanitarian aspirations, which should permeate society, they will also be offered practical incentives for employing people with disabilities.

And lastly, expert medical evaluations. The people I have talked with have a lot of complaints about the work of these centres, which they describe as inflexible and which continue to use criteria that were developed back in the year dot, many of them insulting for people with special needs. We must clean up their operations, as I have told Mr Topilin, by amending the legislation and by changing the work of these expert medical evaluation centres.

All decisions on this issue will be added to the list of instructions which I will sign following this meeting. I want everyone here to keep going down this road. Thank you.

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