On World Youth Skills Day, Autism-Europe would like to shed light on the low employment rate of autistic youth across Europe and how it relates to lack of educational and training opportunities for autistic people. We call for the development of training and positive employment initiatives that are accessible in times of Covid-19. EU programmes such as the Youth Guarantee should be made fully accessible for autistic youngsters.
Autism-Europe’s 2020-2021 World Autism Awareness Day campaign, “I can learn. I can work”, promotes equal access to education and employment for people on the autism spectrum. In the framework of this campaign and on the occasion of World Youth Skills day, Autism-Europe recognises the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
It is currently estimated that across the European Union less than 10% of people on the autism spectrum are employed, this is much higher than the rest of the population as it is estimated that globally 22.4% of youth are not in employment. The majority of autistic workers are employed in low-paid jobs, often part-time, or in sheltered settings. It relates to the fact that autistic youth also face many challenges accessing quality inclusive education due to lack of accommodation in educational settings. Without educational opportunities (including to university and vocational training), autistic people face even lower odds of gaining employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created even more barriers for autistic youth on the road to employment. The pandemic and lockdown measures have led to the worldwide closure of technical and vocational education and training institutions, threatening the continuity of skills development. Remote learning has proven inaccessible for part of the autistic population. Since the beginning of the pandemic, global and EU economies have entered into recessions, which makes it even more challenging for autistic people to access employment.
To help improve this situation, AE would like to call on the EU to ensure that their economic response to the pandemic is one that includes the needs of people with disabilities. Any new EU initiative to deal with the crisis and its recovery plans should ensure that autistic people and other disability groups are not left behind.
It is essential that the Youth Guarantee is fully inclusive to all young people in the labour market, including autistic people and other people with disabilities. Provide young people with disabilities with measures to access the labour market ranging from supported training and employment, to practical adjustments to the workplace through reasonable accommodation is paramount. It is thus essential to develop better understanding of the support and access needs of autistic people in education and the workplace. Participants in the scheme should also be allowed to continue receiving disability allowance that help them cover costs associated with their disability. More generally it is also essential to ensure the flexibility of social protection schemes, to prevent that entering the labour market results in persons with disabilities losing their social protection safety net. As the EU is currently preparing its next financial multiannual framework, we call for more ambitious budget to assist the inclusion of persons with disabilities in youth programmes (e.g. dedicated budget for personal assistance).