Quotas are discriminatory

I’ve heard renewed calls for the introduction of quotas recently, both in state governments and the arts.

Quotas are discriminatory, paternalistic and humiliating. I could possibly live with all of this, but, worse, just like subsidies, they don’t work!


While the idea of a quota system may be beguiling, in practice:

1. Large employers simply pay the fine or look at ways in which existing staff may be reclassified to demonstrate their disability and the company’s commitment to inclusion

2. Small-to-medium-sized business owners form an opinion that employing people with a disability is something for the big end of town, so quotas make no difference with small population and large geographical area

3. The whole community receives an impression from its leadership that the only way to include people with disability in the workforce is through legislation.

We shouldn’t mislead people. If there’s one thing we have proved over the past 42 years, since the Disability Services Act (1986) it’s that people with disability make excellent staff in the right position with the right employer with the right support.

Last night I spoke at an employer meeting and interviewed an HR Manager who has been with NOVA for several years. I asked the obvious question, ‘Why hire someone with disability?’ The answer was words to this effect, ‘Right person in the right place – it makes good business sense’. 

Ability, interest and skill makes or breaks employment relationships. Smart business owners know this. Achieving an artificial target as part of a legislated quota would destroy decades of progress that is fundamentally based on a belief in the capacity of the product (people with disability as regular employees), rather through following a law.

The alternative?

Invest early and often in those people who’ve been discriminated against in the past – women, LGBTIQ, people of colour, older and younger people, people with disability. They deserve it. We deserve it. Now, more than ever, the world needs their potential fulfilled.

- Martin Wren