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Economic Inclusion for People with Disabilities: Challenges and Responses
Economic Inclusion for People with Disabilities: Challenges and Responses

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on the lives and livelihoods of people with disabilities. The adverse health effects of the coronavirus are amplified for people with disabilities, so many fall into stricter shielding categories, making them subject to more stringent public health containment measures and limiting their access to employment and other economic activities. There is also greater risk of redundancy in the prevailing business climate, which may exacerbate existing patterns of disproportionate unemployment and economic inactivity among people with disabilities and hamper an inclusive economic recovery. In short, the pandemic magnifies and entrenches the multiple risks of economic exclusion faced by people with disabilities in those economies where the EBRD invests.

The EBRD’s 2017 Economic Inclusion Strategy identified people with disabilities as a new target group for its economic inclusion activities (EBRD, 2017). Since then, the Bank has worked to develop an operational approach to promoting the economic inclusion of people with disabilities, which has fostered multiple investments and initiatives. The EBRD, therefore, has an active and valuable role to play in helping its clients and policy-level partners to secure a genuinely inclusive crisis recovery for people with disabilities. Building on its new strategic approach and to address the clear and pressing needs of people with disabilities, the EBRD’s response must be guided by sound evidence, highlighting clear entry points for its clients and partners to promote positive timely and sustainable impacts. In the context of the Covid-19 crisis and recognising the patchy availability of credible information on which to base an adequate response, the EBRD can play an important role in supporting and framing crucial policy discussions at a time when national budgets are stretched and inclusive policies could fall by the wayside.

This report aims to support the EBRD, its clients and policy partners in assessing and responding to the acute challenges facing people with disabilities with respect to economic inclusion, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It provides an overview of the key challenges facing disabled workers and entrepreneurs, as well as the responses of policymakers and the private sector, focusing on the three pillars of the EBRD’s Economic Inclusion Strategy, namely, employment and skills (Section 2), finance and entrepreneurship (Section 3) and access to services that enhance economic participation (Section 4). It aims to provide both a general assessment of the long-term structural barriers to inclusion for people with disabilities and an assessment of the immediate impacts and implications of the Covid-19 crisis (Section 5).

The report is based on a qualitative desk review of publicly available sources and consultations with internal EBRD stakeholders. The scope of the assignment did not allow for primary data collection, direct consultation with external stakeholders, or detailed statistical analysis of economic

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