The state of play of employment of people on the autism spectrum in Europe has been discussed at the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament on November 5th in Brussels, after a presentation given by Autism-Europe (AE) Director, Aurélie Baranger. Several Members of the Committee expressed their concerns about the low employment rate of autistic people and expressed their willingness to promote actions at the EU-level to address the discrimination faced by autistic people in employment, but also in other areas of life.
Autism-Europe was invited to give a presentation at a meeting of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament. During her intervention, Baranger highlighted that with an employment rate of under 10%, autistic people are even more affected than the rest of their disabled counterparts by unemployment and are often in low-wage jobs. She outlined the key barriers to employment, such as lack of access to vocational training, denial of reasonable accommodation and prejudices about autism.
However, she emphasized that many strengths are associated with autism and that it is key to build on these individual strengths to foster successful employment. She described the possible types of employment and support methods, giving as good practice job coaching and hiring programmes in the field of new technology.
Such programmes should be made available in different fields, to reflect the diversity of interests of autistic people. She concluded by giving policy recommendations, such as adopting a strong and ambitious European disability strategy beyond 2020, improving data collection disaggregated by disability, a strong ESF+ programme, supporting research and social investment, and foster awareness and understanding amongst all key stakeholders.
The presentation included the awareness-raising video clip “Could you stand the rejection?” (see below), created by AE member the National Autistic Society (NAS) in the framework of its campaign “Too much information”, to show Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) some of the key barriers faced by autistic people in employment and what kind of reasonable accommodation should be provided.
During a lively exchange of views, several Members of the Committee highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of the unemployment of autistic people at the EU level. They also expressed their concern about the lack of early diagnosis, inclusive education, availability of support services including at transition times and awareness, among others. They called for further cooperation on this topic and for follow-up actions.
In conclusion, Baranger stressed the importance of adopting a holistic approach to break barriers in relation to employment, including changing mind sets, having role models, building understanding, and investing in research and innovation programs. She welcomed the feedback of the MEPs and invited them to cooperate with AE to foster access to employment of people with autism.