Oftentimes ministries are concerned when they see disability prevalence rates of 10 percent or even higher. They think, “How can we possibly provide disability pensions to all of those people? It will bust our budgets.” This is because they are confusing the population the WG-SS is attempting to identify with the population eligible for a program. Many disability programs are designed to assist people who cannot work because they have a disability. These are people with serious impairments in unaccommodating environments. But that is only a small subset of the people identified by the WG-SS.
The purpose of the WG-SS (as outlined on the purpose of The Washington Group page) is to identify all people whose functional difficulties put them at risk of not being able to participate in society, for example being employed. In fact, the goal of inclusive policy is to break down as many barriers as possible to their participation. Once we identify who is at risk, we can compare their outcomes (e.g., employment) with those not at risk to see the extent to which those barriers exist (see blog entry on disaggregating the SDGs).
Social protection programs are intended to serve particular populations, and as such have eligibility requirements designed to target those populations. These requirements can be related to the type or degree of impairment, difficulties in undertaking basic activities, or the inability to participate in society particularly to go to school or to work. They can even be related to other characteristics, such as income or household structure.
Depending on the requirements of the program, we assume that most people qualifying for such programs aimed at reaching people with disabilities would be picked up by the WG-SS, but the reverse is not true. Many people identified by the WG-SS will have more moderate difficulties, and even some people with severe difficulties will be participating, for example, working that will make them ineligible for a program designed as wage replacement.
Identifying people with functional difficulties who are not eligible for a program is important. It can help us see how all people with disabilities are doing, and it can help us evaluate whether a program is well designed and successful.