Brunei’s equal opportunities problem

Brunei’s disabled population are underrepresented in the national workforce. The government must do more to support its disabled population.


Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. If this is the true measure of a society, Brunei is in turmoil.

Brunei has an equal opportunities problem. By the government’s own admission, only 56 disabled citizens are in full-time employment. Brunei has a population of more than 9,000 registered as living with a disability.

Brunei’s laws do not support the disabled population

Brunei signed the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The guiding principles of the convention promote non-discrimination and inclusion. But Brunei’s national legislation does not reflect these principles.

In Brunei, the law does not outlaw discrimination against people with disabilities. It also does not demand accessible infrastructure to accommodate people with mobility issues. The government takes measures to ensure children with disabilities have access to education. However, the level of service throughout the country is not standardised. It remains uneven.

The job market is not inclusive

Without legal protection from discrimination, people with disabilities struggle to find work. They are severely underrepresented in Brunei’s job market.

This is unsurprising. Brunei has around 10,000 unemployed adults. Half of these hold master’s degrees. An additional 3,000 have a professional qualification. Without governmental support, Brunei’s disabled population stand little chance of securing work.

It is the government’s responsibility to offer support

A three-pronged approach would help promote equal opportunities in Brunei. A campaign of legal reforms, education and tax incentives would increase inclusivity.

The government should prioritise legal reform to prohibit discrimination against those with disabilities. It must also introduce legislation to make buildings accessible to those with disabilities. This will result in more employment opportunities for those with mobility issues. It will also lead to a better quality of life as buildings become more accessible.

Government-run practical courses would also develop the necessary workplace skills. A campaign of legal reform and increased education would improve the situation. It would create a qualified and capable disabled workforce. It would also provide national building infrastructure to help those with mobility issues. Finally, it would level the playing field. It would ensure disabled people receive consideration for positions based on personal merit.

Muhd Nur’Azwan Hj Aziz, President of the National Association of the Hearing Impaired (OKP) also recommends providing assistance for those studying at universities with disabilities. He suggested the introduction of an industry attachment scheme. The scheme would offer work placement immediately after graduation.

Government incentives could promote job creation

Nations use lower tax rates to incentivise the employment of people with disabilities. Corporation tax breaks could provide incentives for companies that hire disabled individuals. This would likely result in the creation of more job opportunities for people with disabilities.

An approach which focuses on these three core principles would benefit Brunei as a whole. A more diverse workforce increases motivation, productivity and creativity. It demonstrates the government’s commitment to all Bruneians. Any government can help the majority. But a government proves its worth when it extends its support to all segments of society.