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LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS OF PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY
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.
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.
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).
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%).
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).
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