With more and more companies in Mauritius failing to comply with the law that requires them to hire a minimum of persons with disabilities, the finance ministry has decided to adopt a tougher stance towards such violators.

It may be noted that under The Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Act 1996, Act No. 9 of 1996, an enterprises having a workforce with a strength of 35 or more should include at least 3% people with disabilities.

Finance Minister Xavier-Luc Duval said that the government will be tougher on employers who do not comply with the law on employment of disabled people.

However, the finance minister clarified that he is not implying that legal action be taken against violators. He noted that if the 20,000 companies which have a strength of 35 or more workers were to employ at least one disabled person, the problem of unemployment of these people would simply disappear.

Duval was speaking at the launch of a soft loan scheme for persons with disabilities by the Employees Welfare Fund (EWF) on Tuesday at ‘La Cannelle, Domaine Les Pailles’.

With a loan amount ranging from Rs 25, 000 to Rs 300,000 at an interest rate of 4%, the loan has a repayment period of five years.

Employees with disabilities or employees who have a member with disabilities, across both public and private sector, are eligible for the loan, provided they are in full time employment and will cater for the special needs of the disabled by assisting them with the acquisition of specific devices to promote their well-being.

The objectives of the scheme is to provide financial assistance to disabled employees and their families in order to acquire necessary assistive devices; to help people with disabilities to become more independent in their daily life; to help them to enhance their health status, learning mobility and sensorial abilities; and enhance their employability.

To benefit from the loan facility, those who meet the criterion set under the scheme should contact the Disability Unit of the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions for a testimony certifying the applicants’ eligibility and appropriateness of the devices proposed to be acquired by the applicant.

Mauritius has a total of 300,000 people with disabilities, and, according to latest figures by Statistics Mauritius, 8,575 handicapped persons are in employment across companies in Mauritius.

The Mauritian Minister of Social Security, Sheilabai Bappoo, who was also present at the occasion, spoke of the steps that would be taken to cater for an ageing population.

Bappoo mentioned that the retirement age would be gradually increased to 65 years by 2018.

According to the recently released Family Planning and Demographic Yearbook 2012, the proportion of the elderly, aged 60 years and above, has increased to 12.3% in 2012, compared to 9.1% in the year 2000 and 5.4% in 1962 and is going up by 1% each year.