The employment situation of autistic people in Italy: Survey and recommendations by Neuropeculiar APS

This article and the survey described in it were created in response to the call for general discussion on Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights or Persons with Disabilities. Part of the text has been included in EUCAP’s joint written submission to the UN CRPD.

Background

In Italy, there are two laws that are directly linked to the right of disabled people to be included in the world of work: Act 104/92 and Act 68/99.

Act 104/92 is linked to the IDHC model and is the one that determines the degree of handicap of the person, expressed as a percentage. The law takes into account all types of disabilities.

The Act 68/99, which perceives article 27 of the Convention, is the one that should guarantee disabled people the same access to the world of work as everyone else. People are included in Act 68/99 if they get a degree of handicap equal to or greater than 45% in relation to Act 104/92.

The law states that companies with more than 15 employees have an obligation to hire disabled people. Those with up to 35 employees are obliged to hire one disabled person, those with 36 to 50 employees must hire two disabled people, and those with over 50 employees must reserve 7% of seats for the disabled. These obligations are often ignored. Companies prefer to pay an administrative fine rather than employ disabled people.

The law is generic for people with disabilities and does not give specific indications in relation to any impairments. Autism is included among the psychiatric conditions and in particular among the psychoses that represent the conditions on which the stigma weighs the most in relation to disabilities. The placement of autistic people, but more generally for disabled people, through what is defined as “targeted placement” is extremely difficult.

In Italy, there are some companies that are focused on integrating disabled people into the world of work (example: Jobmetoo, part of the Openjobmetis and Abile Job group). There are also two companies specialized in Information technology, which are: Specialisterne, a Danish company, and Auticon, a German company. Specialisterne has carried out a couple of insertion projects for autistic people, one with Everis, hiring a total of twenty of them. Auticon, which set up the Italian branch about a year ago, hired a dozen autistic people. Both Specialisterne and Auticon are focused solely on the employment inclusion of autistic people without intellectual and verbal disabilities.

All other work inclusion projects and in particular those that also concern autistic people with intellectual or non-verbal disabilities, are carried out by parents’ associations (example: LEM APS, Gruppo Asperger Onlus, Giulia Parla etc).

Very few companies have inclusion programs for autistic people and if there are, they are coordinated by medical personnel. The same can be said of cultural training programs to make employees and managers aware of autism so that the process of relating with autistic people can improve and be more aware. This type of program would help reduce stigma and the possibility of suffering discrimination and bullying towards autistic people.

The Survey

At the beginning of the year 2021, Neuropeculiar APS carried out a survey, to which 150 people responded, and which confirms some aspects already noted in the world of work.

The employment situation of autistic people is characterized by a high degree of unemployment and difficulties in entering work, especially if you look at people in the 18-30 age group. People in an age group greater than that indicated had fewer problems in placing themselves thanks to a greater availability of jobs and a selection process that was more based on technical skills than soft skills. Currently, the greatest difficulty to overcome is precisely the recruiting process and immediately after that of inclusion into the working context.

Most autistic people who are in employment have a diagnosis of ASD level 1.

The majority of autistic people who have a job prefer not to communicate their diagnosis for fear of being discriminated against, and who have had at least one experience in which they have suffered discrimination or bullying.

The majority of autistic people have obtained a job without accessing the benefits of Act 68/99.

In the companies where they work, there are no specific inclusion programs for autistic people and there are no cultural training courses dedicated to employees and managers.

In most companies, there are no environmental adaptations to meet the specific needs of autistic people (example: noise reduction, lights adaptation, room to relax, etc).

Conclusions 

Neuropeculiar APS believes that it is necessary to ask to establish mandatory training courses within companies in order to change the cultural climate and encourage the acceptance and inclusion of differences.

 The training must be conceived, planned and carried out with the active contribution of disabled people (therefore autistic people in the case of specific training on autism).

This training must also have a specific focus on recruitment processes in order to facilitate the hiring of disabled people, in particular those with relational disabilities.

Neuropeculiar APS also asks to extend, or to establish in countries where there is none, the obligation of hiring disabled people to all companies that have at least 10 employees and to extend administrative sanctions by inserting clauses that prevent companies from evading their obligations.


Find out more about Neuropeculiar APS on their website (in Italian) or view their L’autismo risponde video series (subtitled in English).