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Survey Shows That Asia's Disabled Lag in Jobs and Education

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Reuters, August 10, 2005.

United Nations--Asia's disabled enjoy widespread legal protections but generally lack educational and job opportunities, according to a survey released on Wednesday by a network of disability rights groups.

The survey, covering China, India, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, was the third monitoring report to be published by the International Disability Network. It was released as United Nations (UN) diplomats drafting a global treaty on rights of the disabled held their sixth working meeting.

While all seven of the Asian countries surveyed guaranteed universal access to education, "throughout the region, there is an overall lack of educational opportunities and rights for people with disabilities," the survey found.

At the high end of the scale, in China, 77 percent of the deaf, blind or intellectually impaired are enrolled in school, compared to over 90 percent of children without disabilities. A figure for Japan was not available, the report said.

At the lower end of the scale, just 46 percent of the disabled in India and 48 percent of disabled Vietnamese are enrolled in school, according to the report.

While all but Cambodia had laws promoting disabled people's right to employment, "economic inactivity among people with disabilities remains high," it said.

In China, 84 percent of the disabled had jobs, but that compared to an overall employment rate of 96 percent, the survey found. Again, no figure was available for Japan.

In India, 74 percent of people with disabilities and 94 percent of those with mental retardation had no jobs. In Thailand, 80 percent were unemployed, while in Vietnam the figure was 70 percent, and in the Philippines it was 40 percent, according to the survey.

While at least some legal protections for the disabled were widely available in all of the countries covered by the survey, none provided adequate basic protections across the board, the survey said.

A convention on the rights of people with disabilities was therefore "a vital and necessary measure for ensuring that people with disabilities become equal citizens and able to enjoy the same rights as all people," the report concluded.

The convention, which drafters predict will come into effect in 2008 or 2009, would require nations ratifying it to adopt laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of any form of disability, from blindness to mental illness.

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