The role of social enterprises in facilitating labour market integration for people with disabilities: A convenient deflection from policy mainstreaming?

Cheryl Hiu Kwan Chui, Chee Hon Chan, Yanto Chandra

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Policymakers have increasingly embraced social enterprises as a vehicle to create job opportunities for the disadvantaged. However, there is limited research on social enterprises in the context of disability in relation to labour market integration. Drawing on the perspectives of representatives of work integration social enterprises and people with disabilities employed in these enterprises (n=21), this study examines whether and how work integration social enterprises promote inclusion for people with disabilities, and also explores the role of WISEs in enabling people with disabilities to transition into open employment. Thematic analysis revealed three key emergent themes: Cocooned inclusion but not transition; Reinforced normative demarcation; and WISEs as a deflection from institutionalizing proactive disability policy measures. This article argues that, although WISEs were able to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities, their purported function in enabling disabled people to transition into open employment remains constrained by factors beyond their control including prevailing norms and the absence of proactive disability employment measures. This article cautions against the over-romanticisation of WISEs as the primary means to ensure the rights of people with disabilities to participate in the labour market. Implications on disability employment policies in relation to social enterprises are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this