Helping Disabled Youth Get Good Jobs

July 30, 2015 • GLOBAL ECONOMY, EMERGING TRENDS, BUSINESS & INNOVATION, Frontier Markets, Climate Change & Society, India

By Aneel Karnani, Kevin McKague, & Meera Shenoy

People with disabilities comprise the world’s largest minority group and they face significant barriers to employment. But in most cases they are eager and willing to work, and can significantly increase a company’s productivity. This article looks at the example of the Centre for Persons with Disability Livelihoods in India with its market-oriented approach to help disabled youth get a job in the formal sector.


Gitanjali Gems operates a diamond cutting, polishing, and jewellery-making business in Hyderabad, India. Given the lack of trained manpower, the company faces a major challenge. In this context, Gitanjali Gems has made training and hiring disabled youth an integral part of the company’s human resource strategy. The turnover rate for its disabled employees is 1 percent compared to the industry average of 10-15 percent. In most months, a disabled employee wins the productivity award, even though they constitute only 12 percent of the company’s current workforce of 2,500. With productivity and cost advantages on its side, Gitanjali Gems is planning to triple its workforce in the next two years and aims to recruit 1,000 people with disabilities as a central component of its growth strategy. Madhusudhan Reddy, Gitanjali Gems’ vice president of human resources, says, “Most employers suffer from preconceived notions about the disabled, so they see only weaknesses. They are differently abled, not disabled – once you frame them that way, you see their strengths.”

Around the world, people with disabilities face significant barriers to employment. The best way to help them is often to help them secure a decent job – something the Centre for Persons with Disability Livelihoods (CPDL) has been doing successfully with Gitanjali Gems and other clients. CPDL is a public-private partnership between Youth4Jobs (Y4J), a private-sector foundation, and the government that uses a market-oriented approach to help disabled youth get a job in the formal sector.

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