A new report has revealed that Pakistan could be losing 6.3% of its GDP due to the exclusion of persons with disabilities (PwDs). If this continues, the economic cost of exclusion is estimated at USD $33 million per day, every day.
The research: ‘Moving from the Margins: Mainstreaming Persons with Disabilities in Pakistan’, produced for the British Council by the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that excluding PwDs leads to economic losses of as much as US$11.9bn to US$15.4bn in Pakistan, or 4.9% and 6.3% of the country’s GDP. By 2018 losses could be as high as US$21.4bn.
With only 50,000 places available in schools for PwD, Pakistan’s special education provision is wholly inadequate and completely inaccessible for children in rural areas. Pakistan has 500-600 trained mental health professionals for a population of 186m. Although no accurate data exists on the number of PwDs in Pakistan, the World Health Organisation states that of 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. Applied to Pakistan, this would mean approximately 27m people, larger than the combined population of Scandinavia.
Peter Upton, Director of the British Council in Pakistan said: “Every country needs to do more to support people with disabilities, but the findings of this research in to Pakistan are shocking. The cost to Pakistan of inaction is in excess of 33 million US dollars each day every day, is a loss of talent and a continuation of a cycle of poverty for those who are disabled.
“It is time make a call to action for policy makers, international non-governmental organisations and disabled peoples organisations to unite and form a coordinated, committed and integrated response to strengthen the legislation that recognises the rights of persons with disabilities. Together we can advocate for full inclusion and support legislation and implementation that can ensure every Pakistani citizen reaches their potential. It is time to stop the invisibility of those with disability.”
Abia Akram, Chairperson of the Pakistan National Forum of Women with Disabilities, said “I have worked in the disability sector since 1997 and I have a disability called Rickets. Parents are not sending them [persons with disabilities] to school because of the violation, harassment and things like that. In 2011 I got a Chevening Scholarship and went to the UK for my studies. I did my postgrad in disability, gender and international development at the University of Warwick. I came back in 2012 and established a global network of young women with disabilities.”
Dr Shahida Sajjad, dean, Faculty of Education, University of Karachi, said: “The most important barrier to persons with disabilities is attitudes. People feel sympathy towards them but do not want to understand their capabilities, and they can be given a job and do it well. Some companies hire a disabled person but tell them to sit at home and they’ll be paid a salary because the workplace lacks necessary facilities.”
‘Moving from the margins; Mainstreaming persons with disability in Pakistan’ was launched in Glasgow on the 29th of August. On September 2nd representatives of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of International Development and many NGOs, academics and disabled persons organisations will join a policy roundtable at the British Council’s head office in London to continue the discussion which arose from the launch, and focus the dialogue around actions. Prof Michael Stein, Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability will make the keynote address.