OISE student examines Canada's pandemic-fuelled labour shortage and the role of hiring persons with disabilities

By Amani Hitimana
January 12, 2022
OISE doctoral candidate Amani Hitimana

Canada is facing an unprecedented labour shortage across all sectors. Employers are struggling to have an adequate number of workers to keep businesses running.

Amani Hitimana, a doctoral candidate in Adult Education and Community Development – whose collaborative specialization is in workplace learning and social change – highlights the paradox of the shortage of Canadian talent and the shocking statistics for persons with disabilities who have the required education, productive skills, and talents that are being wasted by not employing them.

In an academic journal entry, Hitimana and his research supervisor Peter Sawchuk are responding to a call for research by addressing the following question:

“What employment factors are the best predictors of high organization-based self-esteem (OBSE) among persons with disabilities in the workforce?”

This is the first study of its kind to link OBSE with job factors among employees with disabilities.

According to 2017 Statistics Canada’s data on disability, 22 per cent of Canadians have at least one disability. This represents 6.2 million people in Canada – a large pool of candidates that employers could tap into.

Viewing persons with disabilities as “problem,” who are dependent and in need of either “cure” or “care” has contributed to their exclusion from labour market participation and placed them at a severe disadvantage.

A significant number of employers are still misguided in thinking that employees who have disabilities are less capable of performing their job, says Hitimana. Furthermore, employers believed that employees with disabilities are more prone to accidents and require sick leave, all of which can increase costs, including accommodations.

However, a study by the Job Accommodation Network conducted between 2004 and 2012 and involving close to 2,000 employers found that, in 57 per cent of cases, people with disabilities do not even require any accommodation to become part of the workplace.

In Ontario alone, in 2012, there were about 795,000 people with disabilities who could be working and helping to support the economy, but who were not, and close to half of these individuals have received post-secondary education. 

“These statistics are poignant and raise a question: is skills shortage a self-inflicted wound?” asks Hitimana. “As the Canadian population ages and disability rates increase, it is becoming clear that the war for talent will strike the economy so badly. 

“As the pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted and more people are returning to work, it is evident that the shortage of talent will continue to widen and organizations cannot afford to exclude workers with disabilities from the labour force and, if they do, it is at their own peril.”

Hiring persons with disabilities will reap multiple advantages – both in terms of qualified personnel and for the public by relieving the burden on social security systems and fostering an inclusive society, says Hitimana.

“If just five per cent more adults on Ontario Disability Support Program earned work-related income (about 1,900 earners), the government would see an estimated annual reduction in costs of $8.1 million,” he says.

To read more about Hitimana’s research contributions on hiring persons with disabilities, check out this article published in the international journal World Association for Case Method Research and Application.

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