It is not easy for people with disabilities to find a job, but there are positive examples.
According to the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), there are about half a million of people with disabilities living in Croatia, with slightly less than half of that number being considered potential members of the workforce, reports Poslovni.hr on 2 July 2017.
Due to different conditions, such as inadequate access to educational resources and generally challenging labour market opportunities, the share of persons with disabilities in the total number of employees is low. However, according to the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ), thanks to the development of new models of professional rehabilitation, the implementation of incentive measures for employment and education of unemployed persons with disabilities, and raising public awareness about the competencies and working opportunities for people with disabilities, things are getting better.
One of the positive examples is the institution for professional rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities Suvenir Arbor from Širac, not far from Daruvar, where 66 percent of employees are people with disabilities.
While the company is best known for its wooden toys, Arbor’s range of products is quite diverse, which is confirmed by managing director Alen Baščevan. “When an initiative for establishing Arbor was launched forty years ago, there was a significantly lower share of people with disabilities in our region than today. Since the beginning, our primary purpose has remained the same – employment of people with disabilities and their inclusion in every segment of our society,” he says. They have a fully modernised production process for finished wood products, and Arbor’s employees see themselves as a small wood industry, but also a large carpentry shop.
Its greatest achievement, according to the managing director, is that they can employ a significant number of people with disabilities and integrate them into all production processes. The quality of Arbor’s products is best demonstrated by the fact that most of their products, children’s toys, decorative and handicraft items and custom-made furniture, are exported to the French and German markets.
“Recently, we have been making progress in withdrawing money from different funds. We have recently signed a contract for co-financing of additional employment from these funds in the amount of over three million kunas, which will enable us the acquisition of new equipment, which will further allow our products to gain additional value. Europe is a huge market, and with so many potential buyers you need to have something special, something that will allow you to stand out from the competition. Our products can even be found in France, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand,” said Baščevan.
However, there are difficulties as well. They are located in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, where there are about 14,000 disabled people, and they are the only institution in Croatia which is not located in one of the larger towns, which makes it a bit more difficult to operate. Also, with the exception of specialised fairs, their products can be purchased only at their premises, so one of their wishes is to open a store in Zagreb. “Despite all the difficulties, we are persistent in trying to hire as many people with disabilities as possible,” said Baščevan.