Indicators of the Quality of Work Life (QWL) of People with and without Physical Disabilities: A Comparative Study

By Martina Kotzé.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There seems to be renewed interest in the issue of the quality of people’s work lives in South Africa, in what is currently referred to as employee well-being or work wellness. Despite the attention that Quality of Worklife (QWL) has received from management theorists and the business world alike, the definition and its application remain rather vague. Employees, globally speaking, have been found to have a lower regard for authority coupled with a greater desire for self-expression, personal growth, and self-fulfillment. Many now expect work that provides opportunities to fulfill higher order needs. In South Africa, differences between the ambitions of the First and Third Worlds may create different expectations in the work place, causing tension between post-materialistic and pure materialistic aspirations. The absence of QWL indicators for the South African situation is evident. To be employed in the open labour market is particularly important to the disabled, since this offers them the opportunity not only to be financially independent, but also to prove their self-worth.Unfortunately, despite legislation and various documents relating to the importance of the employment of people with disabilities in the open labour market, there is still a high level of unemployment and under-utilization of people with disabilities in the South African labour market. People with disabilities are known to occupy a disadvantaged position in the work place, and are often ghettoised into low status, low-paid jobs. It seems that the barriers to their employment and utilization are often of a social rather than an individual nature and can be attributed, amongst others, to the discriminatory attitudes, prejudice, and practices of employers. Employers often have misconceptions about the abilities, expectations, needs, and QWL of people with disabilities. A greater awareness of the QWL needs and expectations of people with disabilities is essential in order to reduce the barriers to employment, as well as the under-utilization that many people with disabilities confront. The aim of this research was to identify, by means of a qualitative study, the indicators that people with and without physical disabilities use in the evaluation of their QWL, and whether there are any differences between the needs and expectations of these two groups. Five categories, representing twenty indicators of QWL were identified. The important role of effective leadership and management, supportive and competent colleagues, opportunities for training and development, work load/pressure, and fair and adequate compensation, were especially emphasized by both groups. From the findings, it would appear that people with disabilities experience similar challenges and concerns relating to QWL-issues as those experienced by non-disabled employees. In addition to these, there are a few other issues relating directly to disability, such as the need for acceptance and understanding of the disability without discrimination, and the extent to which the contents of the work accommodates the disability.

Keywords: Quality of Work Life (QWL), People with Physical Disabilities, Disability in the Work Place, Indicators of Quality of Work Life

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.155-170. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 635.273KB).

Prof. Martina Kotzé

Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Psychology, University of the Free State, South Africa


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