DESA Briefing Seminar Series; Disability and Economics: The nexus between disability, education and employment 1 July 2011, UN Headquarters, Conference Room 7, 1.15 to 2.45 p.m.

It may seem obvious to say that education is an advantage in the labour market, and, in some cases, possessing it is what allows some individuals to enter the job market to begin with. However, in countries like Nepal, when considering the case of persons with disabilities, such common knowledge does not hold true in the minds of many. The prevailing belief is, still, that even if persons with disabilities are educated, they are less likely to make use of the education, or that they will not be useful in the workforce.

To empirically challenge this assumption, an evidence-based study was conducted in Nepal. The study found that the return on investment in education was very high among persons with disabilities, ranging from 19.4 to 32.2%. Despite this high returns, one significant finding was that, across the board, persons with hearing impairments had fewer years of schooling than their counterparts with visual or physical impairments. This confirms the crisis of the lack of schools for students with hearing impairments. Additionally, when analyzing the likelihood of employment of persons with disabilities, it was found that years-of-schooling, type of impairments and age are significant in predicting the likelihood of participants’ employment. Among these variables, years-of-schooling has a positive effect on the probability of employment. However, even aside from this finding, there are also several important nuances when the data is broken down by age and/or type of disability. The results suggest that unless affirmative action is taken on their behalf, it may be difficult for persons with physical impairments to enter directly into the competitive labour market.

Panel discussion

A panel discussion will be held at UN Headquarters to discuss the relationships between disability, education and employment. Using the findings of the study conducted in Nepal, the panelists will highlight the moral, social imperatives of including persons with disabilities in the labour market, as well as show that it is good economics. They will also offer options for the further inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market.


  • Akiko Ito, Chief, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • Michael Morris, J.D., Executive Director, Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University
  • Kamal Lamichhane, Ph.D., University of Tokyo
  • Yasuyuki Sawada, Ph.D., University of Tokyo
  • Akihiko Matsui, READ Project, University of Tokyo



United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.