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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS OF PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY

This article uses information from the 2003 and 1998 Surveys of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) conducted by the ABS. Unless otherwise stated, this article limits its analysis to working-age people (i.e. people aged 15-64 years) living in households.

Income gained through employment is vital to the well-being of most working-age Australians and their families, contributing to their financial independence and security. People with reported disability generally experience lower levels of employment than other Australians. Disability as defined in the SDAC refers to a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months.

The ageing of the population is one of the major transformations being experienced by Australia’s population, and has implications for the size and structure of Australia’s future labour force. The decline in the proportion of the population of working age is expected to result in an increase in the ratio of adults not in the labour force to those who are employed in coming decades. Therefore, greater labour force participation is being encouraged by the Australian Government, among both the population in general and among people with a disability.

Disability rates increase with age. In 2003 the rate of reported disability among 15-19 year olds was 9%. This rate was higher for successively older age groups, reaching 39% of 60-64 year olds. Disabilities can be broadly grouped depending on the type of functional limitation. A person could be classified to more than one of the following five disability groups: sensory or speech; intellectual; physical; psychological; head injury, stroke or other brain damage. Of the five disability groups, the likelihood of having a physical disability increased most strongly with age, from 4% of 15-19 year olds to 32% of 60-64 year olds.

LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION

Labour force participation (working or looking for work) provides an indication of both the desire for paid work and the ability to obtain and perform such work. People with disabilities have lower rates of labour force participation than people without disabilities. Just over half of all people with a disability participate in the labour force compared with four in five people without a disability.

In 2003 most (58%) working-age people with a disability who were not in the labour force reported being permanently unable to work. The majority (52%) of those permanently unable to work were aged 55 years or older. Some disability groups had higher rates of reported permanent incapacity for work than others. For example, 48% of people with a psychological disability reported being permanently unable to work, compared with 28% of those with a sensory disability.

DISABILITY CHARACTERISTICS

People with a profound core-activity limitation always need help with self care, mobility or communication, or are unable to do these tasks. People with a severe core-activity limitation sometimes need help with self care, mobility or communication; or have difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends; or communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication.


9.13 DISABILITY STATUS, By labour force status(a) - 2003
Males
Females


Units
Profound or severe
core-activity
limitation(b)
All with reported
disability(c)
No reported
disability
Profound or severe
core-activity
limitation(b)
All with reported
disability(c)
No reported
disability

Employed full time
%
21.1
41.7
71.8
7.7
19.5
36.5
Employed part time
%
9.4
12.4
12.7
16.3
23.5
32.0
Unemployed
%
*3.3
5.2
4.3
*2.8
3.9
3.8
Not in the labour force
%
66.3
40.7
11.1
73.2
53.1
27.8
Total
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Participation rate
%
33.7
59.3
88.9
26.8
46.9
72.2
Unemployment rate
%
*9.7
8.8
4.8
*10.5
8.3
5.3
Total
'000
229.8
1,137.2
5,603.6
270.4
1,091.6
5,560.7

(a) Persons aged 15-64 years living in households.
(b) Core activities comprise self care, communication and mobility.

(c) Includes those who do not have a specific limitation or restriction.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.


In some cases, the severity of the disability limits the person's participation in the labour market. Generally, labour force participation decreases as severity of disability increases. People with a profound or severe core-activity limitation had the lowest participation rate of 30% in 2003 (compared with 81% of people without a disability).


The nature of the disability can also limit labour market participation. People with sensory disabilities were most likely to be participating in the labour market (54%) whereas people with psychological disabilities were least likely (28%) (graph 9.14). This difference may reflect greater difficulty in accommodating people with psychological conditions in the workplace, and greater difficulty faced by people with these conditions in obtaining and retaining a job.

Graph 9.14: PARTICIPATION AND UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG DISABILITY GROUPS(a) - 2003


EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS

Some people with disabilities experience employment restrictions such as being unable to work, being restricted in the types or hours of work they can do, or needing special assistance in the workplace. People with disabilities who had an employment restriction were far less likely to be participating in the labour market (45%) than those without an employment restriction (72%). Of the 1.5 million people who had a disability and an employment restriction, 39% reported being permanently unable to work.

The more severe a person's core-activity limitation the more likely it was that he or she had an employment restriction. While 70% of working-age people with a reported disability had an employment restriction, the rate was higher for those with profound (95%) and severe (90%) levels of core-activity limitation. Among the disability groups, the proportion with an employment restriction ranged from 64% of the sensory or speech group to 91% of the psychological group.

EMPLOYED PEOPLE

Paid work can provide many benefits including an income, skill development and a sense of contributing to the community. In 2003, among 15-64 year olds, more than three-quarters (77%) of those with no reported disability were employed. The rate of employment was considerably lower among those with a disability (49%), and much lower still among those with a profound or severe core-activity limitation (27%). Women with and without disabilities were less likely to be employed than men, consistent with their lower labour force participation. Women were also more likely to be working part time than men.

Increased severity of disability was also associated with greater propensity to work part time rather than full time. Among employed 15-64 year olds, 29% of those with no disability usually worked less than 35 hours each week in all jobs. This rate of part-time work was higher among those with a disability (37%), and higher again among those with a profound or severe core-activity limitation (49%). One-quarter of the latter usually worked less than 16 hours per week (graph 9.15).

Graph 9.15: HOURS USUALLY WORKED EACH WEEK(a)


Some employers make special arrangements to accommodate people with disabilities in their workplace. This happened for 12% of wage or salary earners with disabilities, in 2003. Around 6% had been provided with special equipment by their employer and 3% had been allocated different duties. Nearly 3% had been provided with, or allowed to have, a special support person to give ongoing assistance or supervision at work because of their health condition(s) (table 9.16). Of the disability groups, wage or salary earners with a sensory or speech disability were least likely to have had a special arrangement made for them by their employer (12%), while those in the psychological group were most likely (27%).


9.16 SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS MADE BY EMPLOYERS BECAUSE OF HEALTH CONDITIONS(a) - 2003
Units

No special arrangement made
%
87.7
At least one special arrangement made
%
12.3
Special equipment
%
6.4
Different duties
%
2.9
Special support person(b)
%
2.6
Building or fitting modification
%
1.8
Help from someone at work
%
1.3
Training or retraining
%
*0.7
Special or free transport or parking
%
*0.5
Another special arrangement
%
1.5
Total(a)
'000
826.4

(a) Wage or salary earners aged 15-64 years with a reported disability living in households.
(b) To give ongoing assistance or supervision.


Source: ABS data available on request, 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.


UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE

As well as being less likely to participate in the labour force, people with a disability who do participate are less likely to be working. The unemployment rate in 2003 for working-age people with disabilities in 2003 was 8.6% compared with 5.0% for people without disabilities. The unemployment rate in 2003 was lower for both groups than in 1998.

The unemployment rate varied considerably between disability groups. Groups with a relatively high rate of participation in the labour force (i.e. the physical group and the sensory or speech group) had comparatively low unemployment rates (7.4% and 9.3% respectively). Conversely, the psychological group had a low labour force participation rate (28%) and a high unemployment rate (19%). These labour market outcomes were poorer than prevailed among people with a profound or severe core-activity limitation (30% participation rate and 10% unemployment rate).

Around one-third (34%) of unemployed people with a disability were long-term unemployed (i.e. had been unemployed for at least the previous 52 weeks). This was higher than for unemployed people without a disability (23%). Those with a disability were also a little more likely to be looking for part-time work than those without a disability (36% compared with 34%) (graph 9.17).

Graph 9.17: SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF UNEMPLOYED PERSONS(a) - 2003


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