THE Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat says about 80,000 people in the Pacific may be living with disabilities.
Speaking at the opening of its disability officials meeting in Nadi yesterday, forum deputy secretary-general Cristelle Pratt encouraged the uptake of initiatives that could provide potential opportunities for employment and an improved livelihood for those with disabilities.
One of the initiatives outlined was a paper by the International Labour Organization that aimed to develop projects that promoted entrepreneurs with disabilities in Pacific Island countries.
"While statistical evidence in the Pacific is not always firm, it is known that people living with disabilities represent a significant portion of the working age population" she told participants.
She said most were young and faced great challenges in accessing education, health services, and employment opportunities and yet they represented a large, diverse pool of talent.
"Their exclusion from employment and their location often at the margins of society comes with an economic cost estimated by the ILO as being between 3 and 7 per cent of the world GDP."
She challenged participants on what they could do in the Pacific, adding they could establish measures to reflect the commitment of member countries when consenting to relevant international labour standards and the Convention of Rights to Persons with Disabilities.