Disability and employment: five statistics we need to know


There’s this unconscious bias and a belief system that people with disabilities might not be the best candidates for the workplace, and many aren’t even aware that they are biased. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of assumption, employers assume that a candidate with limitations might not be up to the task, and they never investigate it any further.

Here are five statistics that prove why we need to relook at our personal belief systems, our unconscious bias, and dig deeper when we have the opportunity to interview candidates with disabilities.

1. People with disabilities are as employable, but rarely actually employed

In Australia, people with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 64 are employed less than people without disabilities of the same age. Back in 2003, around 53 per cent of people with disabilities were either employed already or actively seeking employment opportunities. In 2018, that number stayed more or less the same at 53.4 per cent. For people without disabilities, the 2003 stats were 63.6 per cent and the 2018 stats were 84.1 per cent.

2. When people with disabilities are employed, they’re often given fewer hours

When PWDs are employed, they’re generally given fewer hours than people without disabilities. Sometimes this is by choice or necessity, but other times PWDs would like more hours but find them hard to get, again, employers often assume that these candidates can’t handle more, without actually engaging in open conversations on the matter. About 59.1 per cent of people with disabilities work full time; for workers without disabilities, that number is 68.3 per cent. When it comes to part-time work, PWDs make up 40.9 per cent compared to only 31.7 per cent for those without disabilities.

3. Discrimination is still there, and it’s still just as prohibitive

Discrimination in the workplace is a common experience for many people with disabilities. In a 2018 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 45.2 per cent of workers underwent some form of discrimination or unfair treatment in the past year. This statistic was further backed by a 2020 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, with 30 per cent of the 2,307 complaints received by the Commission were complaints about employment filed under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992.

4. Unemployment is a difficult catch-22 for PWD

On top of it being harder for people with disabilities to find full-time work, those who’re unemployed are often unemployed for longer periods. A 2019 Australian Bureau of Statistics report found 22 per cent of all workers with disabilities remained unemployed for up to one year. Compare that to about 14 per cent of all unemployed workers without disabilities, and the reasons why PWDs are less likely to find the type of work they really want to be doing becomes a little clearer.

5. Senior workers with disabilities find it the most challenging to gain employment

Working-age people with disabilities are less likely to be employed than working-age people without disabilities. Also, younger people with disabilities are far more likely to be unemployed than older people with disabilities. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, people with disabilities between 15 and 24 are underemployed more often than those aged between 25 and 64. Although they’re underemployed more often, they’re also more interested in working more hours. About 23 per cent of PWDs between 15 and 24 say they want to work more hours, compared to 8.1 per cent for those between 25 and 64.

The statistics above shed a little more light on the employment situation of people with disabilities, and it’s not exactly a fun picture. With those numbers in mind, we need to become conscious of the realities of running a business and employing people with limitations.