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ESCAP has commissioned two studies on public procurement to better understand how it can be used as a tool to promote social and economic equality for persons with disabilities. In 2019, ESCAP published a policy paper focusing on using public procurement to promote universal design and accessible products and services. This study complements that research by focusing on another tool governments can use to advance specific economic and social justice issues for persons with disabilities, namely preferential contracting through public procurement.

The introduction section of this study provides general background information and explains the methodology, scope and limitations of the study. The second section defines and clarifies the meaning of key terms.

The third section looks at the status quo with respect to the employment of persons with disabilities, presenting data, an overview of international and regional mandates and commitments, and some existing approaches to address disability gaps. The fourth section presents an overview of the prospect of preferential contracting for closing gaps in employment. It underscores why preferential contracting is important, presents data on the size of public procurement, and shows how preferential contracting has been used for other disadvantaged populations.

The fifth section presents the case for why and how the use of preferential contracting for persons with disabilities in public procurement is an important tool for governments as part of their development plans.

The sixth section returns to the five questions from the introduction and discusses the main findings. The final two sections offer conclusions and recommendations

Persons with disabilities remain disproportionately underemployed and unemployed despite governments’ ongoing efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Furthermore, many businesses are not inclusive, preventing persons with disabilities from accessing their products or engaging as suppliers.

Governments across the globe use preferential contracting to advance economic and social objectives. The first efforts to use public procurement to support the employment of persons with disabilities occurred roughly 100 years ago. International legal frameworks inform the approaches that governments can use to achieve disability-related employment objectives. 

ESCAP’s new policy brief, Preferential Contracting for Persons with Disabilities, provides an in-depth look at the practice of using public procurement to promote the employment of persons with disabilities. This policy brief outlines both long-standing and emerging practices to support the employment of persons with disabilities and their work environment and to promote disability-inclusive business practices.  At the country level, the brief recommends governments review their anti-discrimination frameworks and take steps to ensure their current measures and practices are more effective. Finally, the brief describes efforts in several countries to set standards for "disability-inclusive contractors" and suggests that advancing that concept will be necessary for governments to progress their objectives related to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Social Development Division +66 2288 1234 [email protected]