23. January 2019 - 14:19

World Economic Forum: The exclusion of disabled people in education and the labour market is costly for states

*Disability Rights Activist Yetnebersh Nigussie available for interview*

People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population*, but despite being one in five or six of us globally, these individuals are half as likely to be employed as their non-disabled peers. At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the key focus areas is the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labour market. Alongside panels, workshops and other sessions, business leaders will launch #valuable, a campaign aimed at committing businesses to putting disability on the boardroom agenda.

Leading disability rights campaigner Yetnebersh Nigussie of international NGO Light for the World argues that the inclusion of people with disabilities is an essential economic factor for states. She is in Davos to remind politicians and business leaders of their responsibility to leave no-one behind:  "Inclusion should not be treated as a niche topic! We are more than one billion people with disabilities in the world, and we should be meaningfully involved in society. There are countless costs to countries who exclude people with disabilities – not least that it results in a lower overall GDP."

According to estimates by the International Labour Organisation, the exclusion of people with disabilities costs up to 7% of a country’s GDP annually. Furthermore, a 2014 study by the International Centre for Evidence in Disability found that the national product of a country increases as more people with disabilities gain access to education and work (Morgon Banks and Pollack, 2014). It makes economic sense!

Inclusion from the start 

Nigussie argues that a way to achieve this is to include people with disabilities, a hugely untapped source of talent, from the beginning of their lives.  From early childhood development to primary, secondary and tertiary education, vocational training to lifelong learning - all learning settings and education systems should be inclusive and accessible. Why? Because children playing and learning together will have no problem working together later on.

Inclusion in school and vocational training is the most cost-effective way to enable all people to participate in society in the long-term - and thus to bolster the GDP of a country. 

The Costing Equity education study by Light for the World, the IDDC and The Open Society Foundation shows that around 32.5 million children with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries do not go to school due to poor state funding. 

"The neglect of children with disabilities must end now. Every child deserves quality education. The world needs a clear commitment to funding inclusive education. And when given the opportunity to succeed, people with disabilities can achieve brilliant things", says Nigussie.

Further Info:

36 year-old Yetnebersh Nigussie went blind at the age of five. She was raised in rural Ethiopia and only escaped an early marriage because she was considered unfit by the local community due to her disability. Overcoming social and institutional barriers, she graduated from Addis Ababa University securing her first degree in Law and later earning her Master’s in Social Work. Today, she is one of the world’s leading disability rights activists, changing perceptions on disability with the compelling message: “Focus on the person, not the disability. We have one disability, but 99 abilities to build on!” In 2017, she received the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Nigussie is available for interview and discussion from 20.01 – 25.01.19 at the WEF. She is a spokeswoman at the following sessions: 

• Making Education Inclusive: Wednesday, January 23, 10.00-10.45 / Congress Centre / Agora

• Making Disability Inclusion Work: Wednesday, January 23, 16.30 - 17.45 / Congress Centre - Jakobshorn

• Inclusive Education: Investing in our Future: Thursday, January 24 09:00 - 09:45 / Exhibition Area at Congress Centre

* Education studies:

- Costing Equity Study on Financing Inclusive Education: https://www.light-for-the-world.org/costing-equity-report-iddc 

- Study on GDP and Inclusion: http://disabilitycentre.lshtm.ac.uk/files/2014/07/Costs-of-Exclusion-and...

-World Economic Forum on Focus Inclusion:


For more information and interview requests please contact:

Hannah Copeland
Communications Manager UK & International, Light for the World 
h.copeland [at] light-for-the-world.org   
+44 7491 156756