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Employment policy for people with disabilities in Saudi Arabia

Alkhouli, Daliah (2015) Employment policy for people with disabilities in Saudi Arabia. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines policy issues associated with the employment of people with disability/disabilities in Saudi Arabia. The context of the thesis is specific to Saudi Arabia but has relevance for other Arab and Muslim countries. In particular, the thesis provides data on disability within a culture within which virtually no social research on the lives of people with disabilities has been conducted, nor has there been any scholarly discussion regarding the social model of disability. Furthermore it has been conducted by a Saudi woman researcher who has had to work within the restrictions imposed by the culture. A mixed research method was used for the research. Quantitative research questionnaires complement the qualitative semi-structured interviews to study participants across the 50 targeted organisations from various sectors in Saudi Arabia. The study sample was examined in 3 phases: in Phase One (1) questionnaires were distributed to include 50 employers from the targeted organisations; in Phase Two (2) 24 questionnaires were distributed to employees with disabilities from 16 different organisations that hire people with disabilities; and Phase Three (3) consisted of 6 interviews with people with disability/disabilities and with 2 employers. The thesis suggests that workplace environments and societal attributes contribute significantly to inefficiency, underemployment, and unemployment among persons with disability/disabilities. Additionally, employers in both private and public sector organisations lack concern for the needs of employees with disability/disabilities. Low expectations of persons with disability/disabilities are reinforced by ineffective policies. Additionally, most organisations do not provide persons with disability/disabilities with suitable tools that can enable them to perform their work as required, as making such tools available is given a lower priority than supplying able-bodied workers with the tools they need. This indicates that the nature of the workplace environment contributes significantly to the disregard, underemployment, and unemployment of persons with disability/disabilities. The high costs associated with employing people with disability/disabilities also leads to their alienation. At the same time, lack of experience in dealing with such individuals also contributes significantly to the low employment and productivity levels of such persons. Employees with disability/disabilities also tend to be engaged in jobs they are not qualified for, meaning that they are underemployed and their abilities not recognised. People with disability/disabilities remain significantly alienated and disadvantaged in terms of the quality and quantity of work participation in both the public and the private sector. Consequently, there are lower employment expectations in relation to this; this perpetuates the perception of such workers as being inferior, high risk, and undesirable. Furthermore, if workplace environments in Saudi Arabia were adapted to better serve the needs of people with disability/disabilities, then the inclusion of such people in the labour force would increase. In conclusion, the thesis makes a contribution to knowledge about people with disability/disabilities in Saudi Arabia as well as presenting methodological insights into social research undertaken by Saudi women researchers in the country.

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