4446.0 - Disability, Australia, 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/05/2011   
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Labour Force


According to The National Disability Strategy (2011):

Work is essential to an individual's economic security and is important to achieving social inclusion. Employment contributes to physical and mental health, personal wellbeing and a sense of identity. Income from employment increases financial independence and raises living standards. 4

The economic independence employment brings is also important as it helps people with disabilities to exercise more choice in their lives, aids them to live independently and facilitates their inclusion in the community. These are all issues covered in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 27 of the United Nations Conventions also recognises:

the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities 7.

Labour force participation

Labour force outcomes for people with disabilities remained below this UN target in 2009. Of those aged 15-64 years and living in households, 54% were participating in the labour force, compared to 83% of the non-disabled population. Women with disabilities were particularly affected, with a participation rate of 49%, well below the 60% participation rate of males with disabilities and the 77% participation rate of females without disabilities.

A person’s disability status factored heavily into whether or not they were likely to be participating in the labour force. Those with a profound level of core activity limitation had a labour force participation of 17%, much lower than the participation rate of the non-disabled population (Graph 40).

Historical data indicates there has been little progress in relation to improving the labour force outcomes for people with disabilities over the 16 years from 1993 to 2009. Graph 41 shows the labour force participation rates have been stagnant for all people with disabilities.

People with a disability who were employed were more likely to be working part-time (38%) than those with no disability (31%) (Graph 42). When these data are examined by sex however, it becomes evident that females with disabilities have a much higher rate of part-time employment (56% of females with disabilities who are employed) than males with disabilities (22% of males with disabilities who are employed).

Of those people aged 15-64 years who were living in households and had disabilities, over 51% reported being restricted in the type of job they can do. In terms of other employment restrictions experienced by people with disabilities, 30% reported they were restricted in the number of hours they could work and 41% reported having difficulty changing jobs or getting a preferred job.

When people with disabilities were employed and required an average of one day a week away from work because of their condition, the type of arrangements they used were influenced by whether they worked full-time or part-time (Graph 43). People working part-time most often reported using ‘flexible hours’ to accommodate the time off they needed (53%), while those working full-time were most likely to report 'sick leave' (35%).

Of those people with disabilities reporting needing other special employer arrangements to enable or assist them to do their jobs, 37% reported needing special equipment and 22% needed to be allocated different duties (Graph 44).