In 2004, ILO SRO Budapest asked the Austrian Government to co-fund a sub-regional seminar on disability pension reform to bring together all ILO constituents from all SEE countries (the former Yugoslavia, except Slovenia; but Albania, Moldova; and some representatives of NGOs from the host country). The purpose was to focus on detailed problems regarding the transition from benefit regimes to job integration. This request was positively received by the Austrian Government, and its funding was supplemented by French project resources, used for the disability policy survey described above.
For policymakers, a meaningful reintegration of persons with disabilities into the workplace should entail the following goals brought into focus at this conference:
• to come to a common understanding of the linkages – both mutually reinforcing
and tensions – among employment, labour market, and social protection (benefits) policies
• to evaluate the incentive/disincentive functions of disability benefit systems with regard to the labour market integration of beneficiaries
• to identify the potential benefits of shifting from benefit-based approaches to labour market integration approaches in disability policy
• to understand how persons with disabilities perceive their own needs for support in seeking to enter or reenter employment
• to develop a set of next steps for disability policy reform towards employment integration.
These were the goals of the conference “From Disability Benefits to Gainful
Employment”, held in Fojnica, BiH in October 2005 with the support of the Austrian Government. The participants included over 30 participants from federal, regional entity, and municipal levels of government in BiH as well as two representatives each from Albania, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia – who are either policymakers, senior civil servants at labour market and social security/assistance institutions, managers of service delivery and rehabilitation institutions in the area of disability policy or subsequent fields, or NGOs working for disability rights in BiH and other SEE countries.