New Zealand Disability Employment Policy in the 1990s
Neil Lunt, Regina Pernice
This paper assesses the directions that disability employment policy has taken in recent years and considers whether people with disabilities have in fact benefited.
A brief history of large-scale trends in the 1990s within New Zealand reveals a change in how disability is viewed: from a health issue to a labour market concern of ensuring opportunities and participation. A significant part of this move has been to view disability not as something a person has, but as something created by the way society is organised. Widespread changes in the labour market during the 1990s, such as the provider-funder split and the push for more flexible employment arrangements under the Employment Contracts Act, have radically altered the policy context.
The paper identifies five major themes in disability employment policy - a focus on individual rights, the use of incentives, greater marketisation of provision, the use of voluntarism rather than imposing obligations, and fiscal restraint - and examines a number of specific policy initiatives. Although it is often hard to judge the effects of these policies, the analysis does not give great cause for optimism, but points to the need for a closer look at policy outcomes.