The German parliament (Bundestag) on Thursday passed comprehensive reform legislation to expand rights for the 7.6 million people who live with severe disabilities.
A spokesperson from the Federal Employment Agency told DPA in October that only about 16 percent of people with severe disabilities are part of the regular labour market. Another 4 percent are self-employed or are part of the so-called secondary labour market, such as being part of a job creation programme.
One reason for this is that many employers still do not fulfill the statutory quota: companies with more than 20 employees are supposed to fill at least 5 percent of their positions with people with disabilities.
The reform is also supposed to improve working conditions for disabled people. In special workshops that employ disabled people – currently 300,000 people with disabilities are employed in such shops – there will be gender equality officers to help protect against violence and attacks.
It will also be easier for people to switch from such workshops into the regular job market. The reform also encourages the hiring of disabled people by providing a subsidy for up to 75 percent of wages when businesses employ someone with a disability.
“There will be fewer obstacles, and it will make more things possible,” said Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles, calling the reform a “systemic change”.
The German branch of Catholic charity Caritas praised the new legislation, calling it “modern participation rights”.
“This is an important step,” said Caritas Germany president Peter Neher in a statement. “During the intensive exchange within the parliamentary process, many improvements were achieved for the sake of the affected people.”
“Despite positive signs, the law remains below the original aims,” wrote the Sozialverband Deustchland (Social Community Germany), which campaigns for disability rights, in a statement.
“Among the unresolved areas of improvement are the regulations relating to the self-determination of disabled people. This is still inadequate.”
In particular the group points to a system where benefits may sometimes be “pooled” among recipients.
“This does not change the possibility that disabled people may be forced into a home if the costs of living at home are too high,” said Die Linke (Left Party) politician Dietmar Bartsch to broadcaster MDR.
“It creates the possibility that people are forced to share their assistance aid with others and prevents people from having self-determination and participation in society. It restricts the rights of disabled people because the government wants to save costs.”