Ottawa Citizen , Nov. 1, 2011
The federal government can’t recruit enough disabled people into the public service and should develop new strategies that will attract them to federal work, says Canada’s staffing watchdog.
Maria Barrados, president of the Public Service Commission, said the recruitment rate of the disabled has declined for three years and she
worries that unless the trend is reversed the public service will have a problem with too few disabled workers compared with the broader Canadian
“We are concerned that the continued low rate of external appointments will have negative consequences for their representation in the public service
over the long term,” she told the Senate committee on human rights Monday.
Canada’s employment equity laws require the public service to reflect the diversity of society. This means the government must hire the four
designated groups in proportion to their share of the labour force or workforce availability. Barrados said the government has done well in
recruiting and hiring from the three other equity groups – women, visible minorities and aboriginals – but it’s slipping on the recruitment of people
Only a few years ago, departments were trailing in the hiring of visible minorities while the disabled, women and aboriginals were being hired at
rates higher than their representation in the labour force. Barrados said
the commission is studying how it can attract more people with disabilities, including what barriers they face. The commission is also working with
departments to figure out what’s needed to attract all disadvantaged groups with more effective outreach and recruitment strategies.
At the moment, the proportion of disabled workers within the bureaucracy is still higher than the proportion in the labour force. That’s partly because
the public service is an aging workforce and the disability rate increases with age. This means more public servants become disabled over the course of
their careers. The problem is the disabled are applying for jobs in
declining numbers when the number of disabled workers who are retiring or leaving the government is on the rise.
More than half of today’s disabled public servants are over age 50 and nearly eight per cent are leaving per year.
Last year, about 2.7 per cent of applicants self-identified as disabled – a slight decline from previous years. The percentage landing jobs declined
from 3.3 per cent in 2008 to 2.6 per cent last year. The workforce
availability of the disabled is about four per cent.
Her study on how to improve diversity in the public service comes at a time when the government is undergoing its first major slowdown in hiring in a
decade. Her latest report showed growth all but halted last year and hiring, staffing and recruitment slowed down.
Barrados, whose job is to oversee staff to safeguard a non-partisan public service, said departments must be vigilant when filling jobs under the
pressure of fiscal restraint and spending cuts to ensure they are fair and open.
“In a time of fiscal restraint, those values will be as important as ever. There continues to be high interest in public service jobs, but it will be
for fewer jobs,” she said.
She said she is generally pleased with way departments are staffing but she flagged some concerns on the “quality control” of the appointment process,
the lack of appropriate assessment and documentation of merit and poor rationales for why some jobs are filled without advertised competitions.
Barrados said she believes the goal of a public service that reflects Canada’s diversity is widely accepted in government, but she said the
concept of merit and how it should be applied to achieve this is not always understood. She said improved methodology and more reliable data are keys to getting an accurate picture of employment equity in the public service.
She also said the new declaration that aboriginal Canadians have to swear before landing a job in the public services seems to working and deterring
the number of people who falsely declared themselves as aboriginal to get a
Since January 2010, aboriginal applicants must swear a declaration and attest to their ancestry before they are formally offered a job.