A few weeks ago, I received a phone call that surprised me a lot at first.
The person wanted to know if I would write a few lines for a blog about work and handicaps.
Sharing something with you on employment, dear readers!
After thinking about it, I thought why not vent about the difficulties I encounter in my life right now, mostly about employment or rather the lack of it.
You may have heard statisticians say that a typical Canadian will change jobs at least five times on average during their working life. There’s also a lot of talk about the difficulties with this situation if it happens in your fifties. As we get older, it’s more difficult to renew skills or develop new ones, challenges difficult to overcome the same experts say.
I don’t have to make an exhaustive list of reasons why a mature adult can end up without a job and not know where to go, or even experience the emotional and financial toll that unemployment may cause. We all know that it can be a major blow!
Now imagine walking in the shoes of a fifty-something man who has to reinvent himself in the labor market, and do it with a functional limitation…
This is precisely my situation.
I am 56 years old, blind and I have been freelancing for the last three years. I would describe myself professionally as a communicator who tries to convey someone else’s message: writing and hosting workshops and television and radio shows.
The problem: my cellphone is sometimes a little too quiet. It works just fine. I even just purchased a new one with better performance, according to my provider (only too happy to renew my monthly payments).
Trying to understand why my ringer is so quiet, I wondered: “Since I’m not sleeping anyway, why not try and figure it out.” Yes, not receiving a pay check sometimes causes me some sleepless nights! So, let’s make them count!
At first, I expected that unemployed people with disabilities 45 and over would largely outnumber young people roughly in the same situation. So, I made a few phone calls to organizations to confirm what I thought, so I could feel sorry for myself… and ask the government to speed up the legalization of pot muffins scheduled for October, or listen to Safia Nolin 12 hours a day. Well, sorry Safia, but I won’t need you finally, because my assumption is more or less valid!
Let’s look at some statistics from organizations working to develop the employability of people with disabilities: In Montreal in 2016-2017, employment rate stagnated at about 70%, regardless of age (+/- 35 years old). There’s a small difference in Laval, 81% of those 35 years old or less had jobs compared to 72% for those over 36. Only 9% difference, which is not enough to build a case!
In other words, there’s no period more critical to lose your job when you have the baggage of a disability, because the unemployment rate is between 20 and 30% regardless of age. Of course, variations will occur depending on where you live and how severe a challenge you face. For example, about 65% of those with vision impairment find themselves unemployed.
The statistical disparity might seem somewhat discouraging for disabled people looking for a job, especially considering the current low unemployment rate. However, one important thing to point out to employers is that this reality influences the behavior of workers with a disability considerably.
In fact, other data shows that people with disabilities usually work harder, remain faithful to their employer and become more involved in group dynamics. The difficulties they encountered landing a job make many of them willing to work harder. Some will say: “I got the job, I better keep it. I don’t want to find myself back in the 30% category!” Others, happy to finally get a job too, happy to be not one of the 30% unemployed will finally be able to utilize and put to use their knowledge, abilities and potential to perform within the organization!
Employers often realize after a while that the initial adaptation, although a little arduous is largely compensated with many years of good service.
If you’re like me and actually looking for a job and not able to sleep, here’s the challenge: don’t read or listen to the statistics and believe in your strengths, regardless of your age.
There’s no better way to win over a future boss than to believe in our self. Do we really have a choice?
Luc Fortin, host, columnist, editor
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