07/11/2006 - Poland should act quickly to make it easier for disabled people to find work as part of a major reform of its disability policies, according to a new OECD report.
Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - Norway, Poland and Switzerland analyses the sickness and disability policies of these countries. It proposes steps the governments should take to cut the number of people claiming these benefits and help them back into the labour market.
In Poland, less than one in five disabled people is employed. This is far below the OECD average of over two out of five. And those who are employed tend to have part-time or temporary jobs in sheltered work enterprises, often in agriculture, and, less frequently, in the public sector.
The employment problems of people with disabilities are partly due to the overall poor labour market situation in Poland, which had the highest unemployment rate in the OECD area of 15.5% in the second quarter 2006. Further reforms of sickness and disability policies should therefore be undertaken in parallel with general labour market and product market reforms aimed at making work pay, raising labour demand and encouraging a shift from informal to formal employment so that work can become a realistic option for persons with a disability.
Based on its review, the OECD's report makes the following policy recommendations:
The benefit system also needs further adjustments. In particular, measures are needed to ensure that the rapid decline in the number of new disability entitlements will be sustainable and long-lasting. As a ratio of the working-age population, this number fell from a level of twice the OECD average in 1999 to below that average in 2005. However, over the same period, the inflow into early retirement schemes more than doubled. To avoid a turnaround in the declining trend in inflows into disability benefits in the course of forthcoming phasing-out of early retirement schemes, the following measures should be adopted:
Journalists can obtain a copy of Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - Norway, Poland and Switzerland by contacting the OECD's Media Division (tel. +331 4524 9700). For further information, please contact one of the authors in OECD's Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs: Christopher Prinz (tel. +331 4524 9483), Patrik Andersson (tel.+ 331 4524 8851) and Michael Förster (tel. +331 4524 9280).