On 3 July 2014, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs hosted a German-Chinese symposium on "The Inclusion of Disabled Persons in the World of Work", together with the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). In ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Germany and China – as two of the initial signatories to the Convention – are committed to promoting the full inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Ms Gabriele Lösekrug-Möller, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs stressed that the right of persons with disabilities to participate in working life is a basic principle which we need to promote both at national and international level:
In this respect, it is always important to ensure that whatever we decide on a theoretical level, we can also implement and apply in practice on the ground: in schools, in compa-nies and across all areas of public life. To do this, we require not only the support of so-cial partners but also a strong civil society which is always willing to point out problems and which can urge us to take action.
As a member of the Executive Board of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, Mr Xiang Zicheng explained the steps that China has already taken in recent years in moving towards an inclusive society, as well as the challenges which he believes it continues to face.
Xiang Zicheng, member of the Executive Board of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, and Gabriele Lösekrug-Möller, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Both sides underlined that the biggest challenge to achieving this aim is bringing about a change in social attitudes. Rather than focusing on disabilities, it is important instead to look at each person’s individual potential and what skills he or she can bring to society and the workplace. In this context, two Chinese business owners gave extremely impressive accounts of their own experiences. A Chinese parents’ initiative, representing mentally disabled persons and advocating the supported employment of this group, underlined how extremely important it is for people with disabilities to be able to gain social experiences and not become isolated.
The inclusion of persons with disabilities has long been a key topic in relations between Germany and China. Following the signing of a joint declaration of intent by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the China Disabled Persons’ Foundation, which itself has the status of a ministry, the topic of inclusion in the world of work was identified as an initial priority area of cooperation at a joint symposium held in Beijing in 2013 on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Further potential areas of cooperation between the two countries with regard to this range of topics are the inclusion of mentally disabled persons and the issue of accessibility.
Germany and China intend to fulfil their international responsibility by working to ensure that the issue plays a role in cooperation between Asia and Europe at the level of the ASEM. From Germany’s perspective, as the host of the symposium, it is also important that the topic of inclusion of persons with disabilities features in the post-2015 process.