Existing Data On Disabled People In Malaysia Is Understated, Says UN Expert

Need for more attention on disabled and aging populations.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 23 — Only 1.6 per cent of the Malaysian population, or 537,000 people with disabilities, were registered as of this year, a United Nations (UN) human rights expert said.

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry “unconvincingly” attributed the low registration rates to individuals being in “denial” of a disability, rather than insufficient outreach or registration efforts on the part of the government.

“People with disabilities in Malaysia face discrimination and obstacles that prevent them from being able to participate in society on an equal basis with others,” Alston said in a report at the end of his mission to Malaysia.

He urged the government to come out with comprehensive studies focusing on the challenges faced by the disabled in Malaysia, as the existing official statistics radically understate the problems.

Alston said according to the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the majority of people with disabilities do not have a fixed income, while a disability organisation told him that people with disabilities receive just RM400 monthly if they are working, or RM300 a month if they’re “bedridden”.

“Such amounts are patently inadequate. Workforce participation among people with disabilities is low, with approximately 4,500 workers in public and private sectors as of 2018, mainly due to a lack of an accessible environment in the workplace and negative employer perceptions of people with disabilities.”

Alston also addressed the issue of Malaysia heading into an aging country, asking whether the pension schemes in place adequately protect people from poverty as they grow older, and whether those outside the formal workforce will benefit from any of the schemes.

“As of 2013, nearly 70 percent of those at the age of 54 had less than RM50,000 (US$12,000) in savings.”

“Seventy percent of members who withdraw their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) at age 55 reportedly use up their savings less than a decade after retiring.”

“And according to UNFPA, the current monthly RM300 ($72.40) assistance provided to older people in poverty is not sufficient to fulfil their basic needs.”

The Special Rapporteur travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sarawak, Sabah, and Kelantan during his visit to Malaysia, and met state and federal Government officials, international agencies, civil society, academics, and people affected by poverty in urban and rural areas.

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