22 Dec New decree to support vocational education and employment of disabled people in Uzbekistan
Today, on 22 December 2021, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev adopted a new decree “On additional measures to provide comprehensive support to persons with disabilities, to promote their employment and further increase their social activity.” Below I provide a brief summary of the document.
More incentives for disability-inclusive employers
According to the document starting from 1 January 2022, the government will introduce incentives for employers to recruit disabled people by providing a 6-month subsidy (in the amount of 1.5 times the basic calculated value or 405,000 Uzbek soums ≈ $37) for each disabled employee at the expense of the State the Employment Promotion Fund.
The relevant government agencies shall develop the procedures for providing such subsidies to disability-inclusive employers and I hope they will not be associated with red tape and extensive paperwork. Bureaucratic hurdles in applying for the subsidies may distract potential employers from using such state support and making their enterprises inclusive and accessible.
Moreover, starting from 1 March 2022 the decree will introduce several tax benefits for disabled employees. The income tax benefit for persons with disabilities from childhood and persons with disabilities of I and II groups to be increased from 1.41 times to three times the minimum wage.
Until 1 March 2024, the amount of social tax paid by employers (with the exception of budgetary organisations, state enterprises, legal entities, in the authorized capital (capital) of which the state share is 50% or more) for disabled employees is to be returned from the state budget in full amount.
More vocational training opportunities for disabled people
One of the challenges of promoting decent employment of disabled young people in Uzbekistan is their lack of necessary vocational skills and training. To solve this problem the Presidential decree is introducing a system of the annual allocation of subsidies (up to 50 times the basic calculated value ≈ $1,246) to up to 500 young disabled persons by the Agency for Youth Affairs.
These subsidies can be used by disabled people to cover the costs of vocational training (including living expenses and transportation costs) to study information technologies, computer programming, general education disciplines and foreign languages at non-government educational organisations. These subsidies can also be used to purchase equipment and tools for persons who have successfully completed and received a special certificate of vocational training, retraining, advanced training, entrepreneurship and profession training, as well as passed state registration as an entrepreneur or self-employed person.
The Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education shall organise quarterly short-term vocational training courses for disabled people at vocational schools, colleges and technical schools in all regions of Uzbekistan. The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations shall also organise vocational training courses on a permanent basis on professions recommended for disabled people and which are in demand in the Uzbek labour market (e.g., foreign languages, computer literacy and the basics of computer programming, etc.) at the mono-centres “Ishga Markhamat” (Welcome to Work).
In addition, 20 representatives of gifted youth disabled people, selected on a competitive basis, will be financially supported by “El-yurt umidi” (Nation’s Hope) Fund and the Agency for Youth Affairs to study at leading foreign higher educational institutions, including online courses. It resembles the 2% quota for students with I and II disability group to study at national universities at the expense of the state budget which was introduced in 2018. Now a few talented disabled students will have the opportunity to study at international universities as well!
Promoting disability-inclusive employment in the public sector
When criticising the low level of employment of disabled people in Uzbekistan, the Association of Disabled People said that the government agencies should first become role models for the private sector in terms of recruitment of disabled people. It is commendable that the decree now requires the Agency of Public Services to introduce mechanisms of disability-inclusive employment at government bodies, including state enterprises, institutions and organisations.
By March 1, 2022, the Agency of Public Services should ensure employment of disabled people at one centre of public services in each region in their relevant positions (call-centre operator, consultant, inspector, etc.) with the creation of favourable conditions for work. By September 1, 2022, based on the results of this pilot project, introduce this practice in all public service centres across Uzbekistan.
From February 1, 2022, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations should ensure that the job opportunities provided on the basis of the 3% employment quota (obligatory quota for organisations with more than 20 employees) published by the decision of the khokims (governors) of districts (cities) are visible in the National database of vacancies: https://ish.mehnat.uz/ Our first disability-inclusive recruitment web portal www.ishplus.uz has been doing this job this year by publishing reserved vacancies and making this information visible in an accessible format for disabled job seekers.
Supporting social partnership with disabled people’s organisations
Starting from 1 June 2021 the Ministry of Labour is expected to allocate social orders to NGOs and DPOs in the amount of 200 times the basic calculated value (54 million Uzbek soums ≈ $5,000) to promote vocational training and employment of disabled people through awareness-raising activities among jobs seekers and employers. To encourage such activities the government is proposing to organise competitions among disabled people and their organisations in the following nominations: “Best Social Project”, “Best Entrepreneur”, “Best Student”, “Best Sportsperson”, “The best book lover”, “Best Employer”.
The decree also includes measures to support the technological modernisation and improvement of specialised enterprises functioning under disabled people’s organisations which I am quite sceptical about. I personally believe that the government will not be able to rescue such specialised enterprises as they are in deep crisis and are prone to corruption risks. They specialise in the manual production of goods that cannot compete with other enterprises employing non-disabled workers.
Importantly, the state orders aimed at supporting enterprises of DPOs are prone to appropriation and corruption risks which are difficult to monitor. Promoting segregated employment practises at specialised production enterprises of main DPOs such as the Society of the Blind, the Society of the Deaf and the Society of the Disabled also contradicts the earlier measures to support disability-inclusive employment in the open labour market through tax and other incentives in the private sector.
The decree also provides the analysis of the concepts of “social enterprise”, “social entrepreneurship”, “social product”, “social quota”, “social responsibility” and studying advanced international experience in their implementation in practice.
Interagency Council on Disability Affairs is becoming inclusive!
Earlier this year together with the chairperson of the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan Oybek Isakov we wrote a joint article criticising the composition of the newly established Interagency Council on the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as the Council) as it failed to included independent disabled people’s organisations such as the cross-disability umbrella Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan currently uniting more than 31 DPOs and disability-related NGOs across the country.
I am glad that were heard by the President’s administration as the newly adopted decree now requires to include leaders of the Society of the Blind of Uzbekistan, the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan, the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan and the National Association of Business Women with Disabilities.
Interestingly, if initially the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Development Bekhzod Musaev (who was appointed as the Ministry of Healthcare on 11 November 2021) was nominated as the chairperson of the Council, now the leadership of the Council is entrusted to the Chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Adham Ikramov (while the Chamber was not even listed among the member-organisations to the Interagency Council).
Such a change in the chairmanship of the Council can be related to entrusted additional tasks to promote the employment of disabled people including the development of inclusive education, organisation of internships for disabled graduates, making workplaces accessible, supporting disabled employees and their self-employment activities.