People of working age who have a disability have to overcome enormous difficulties to obtain proper employment. In the specific case of the Basque Country, only 20,000 disabled people of working age, in other words, one in three, were professionally engaged in some activity in 2006, so one of the great challenges for Basque society is to remove the obstacles to those with disabilities becoming socially integrated through their work.
There are signs, and even evidence, that the organizations in the Social Economy (associations and foundations of people with disabilities, social enterprises, cooperatives, worker-owned companies and mutual societies) are performing a prominent and fruitful role in the integration of those with disabilities into the employment market. In the Basque Country, disabled people’s associations and foundations play an important part, as do social enterprises (special 15 employment centers) set up by these same organizations.
The central objectives of this research were, through an in-depth investigation of the behaviour and attitudes of the three main players in the inclusion process, namely disabled people, employers and general government, to analyze the obstacles to achieving the social inclusion through work of people with a disability, assess the role of the Social Economy in inclusion processes and propose solutions.
Of the various surveys conducted, the most salient results corresponded to that involving people with a disability who were members of a Basque Social Economy association. This survey supports the conclusion that the performance of the Social Economy and its associative organizations in the work integration of people with disabilities brings considerable social benefits: far higher employment rates and lower unemployment rates than those of disabled people as a whole and, above all, very similar activity rates to those of the total population.