More cooperation from government and investment from private companies are needed if Thailand’s disabled population is truly to become part of mainstream society, a symposium looking at lasting employment options for the handicapped was told.
Rev. Pattarapong Srivorakul, chairman of the Father Ray Foundation for the Disabled, told people attending the Dec. 16 “Social Enterprises for Sustainable Employment for Persons with Disabilities” seminar at Pattaya’s Diana Garden Resort that too much of the responsibility for caring for Thailand’s disabled still rests with charity organizations.
Socially responsible members of the community gather for a commemorative photo after meeting at Diana Garden Resort for an international symposium on sustainable employment of people with disabilities.
“We still have problems of inadequate service given by the government,” Pattarapong said. Elsewhere, he said, government and businesses are working together to create social enterprises in which portions of corporate profits go into government programs devoted to local energy production, micro-credit for the poor, sustainable agriculture and marketing of locally made products.
“This is happening seriously in Europe, particularly in England, where there are up to 55,000 markets and growing,” Pattarapong said. “In Hong Kong, people are being trained for jobs in bakeries, restaurants, convenience stores and post offices. The performance of these new business enterprises is good and growing.”
Labor Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Sunan Bhothong told the conference that the government is concerned that only 320,000 of the 1,005,711 people classified as having some sort of disability have jobs. Such high unemployment is not only an economic drain, but a drag on the country’s social structure and the root of domestic problems, he said.
Ideally, Sunan said, the disabled could be given enough help so they can help themselves. With more occupational training and jobs, they’d become a bigger part of society.
“We have to change the thinking of the general public to accept and learn that disabled people are valuable human resources to society,” he said. “Social investment is becoming more interesting to businesses in the eyes of businesses who realize society is developed only through sustainable investment.”
Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome agreed with the speakers and maintained that the city does its most to help the disabled.
“We work closely with the Father Ray Foundation to develop the lives of the disabled, as they are a key part of our society,” Itthiphol said. “This seminar has been very useful and will have gathered ideas to create more effective policies later on.”