While 90% of people aged 15–64 with disability in the labour force are employed, others face challenges seeking and engaging in employment. This is reflected in their generally lower rates of labour force participation and employment, and higher rates of unemployment, compared with people without disability.

How are labour force, employment and unemployment defined?

Labour force refers to the population aged 15 and over who are working or looking for work (ABS 2022). The results presented in this report and accompanying supplementary data tables are in most cases limited to those aged 15–64.

In the labour force:

  • people who are employed – people who reported they had worked in a job, business, or on a farm during the reference week (the full week before the date of their survey interview); or had a job in the reference week, but were not at work
  • people who are unemployed – people who reported they were not employed during the reference week, and had actively looked for full- or part-time work at any time in the 4 weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week.

Not in the labour force:

  • people who are not employed and not unemployed. This includes people who undertake only unpaid household duties or other voluntary work, those who are retired, voluntarily inactive and those permanently unable to work (ABS 2022).

Employment is linked not only to income and economic security, but also to other aspects of wellbeing such as physical and mental health. Problems finding or keeping employment can, for example, have broader impacts on living conditions and opportunities for the individual, their family and the wider community (AIHW 2023).

This domain looks at:

  • the participation of people aged 15–64 with disability in the labour force (such as their rates of labour force participation, employment and unemployment)
  • how they participate in the labour force (for example, part-time versus full-time employment)
  • their occupations when employed
  • needs they may have in seeking or keeping employment
  • barriers experienced by employers when employing people with disability, and readiness to hire people with disability.

Labour force participation

In 2018, 53% of people aged 15–64 with disability were in the labour force, compared with 84% of those without disability.


In 2018, 48% of people aged 15–64 with disability (90% of those in the labour force) were employed, compared with 80% of those without disability.


In 2018, 10% of employed people aged 15–64 with disability were underemployed (worked part time and wanted to, and could, work more), compared with 6.9% of those without disability.


In 2018, people aged 15–64 with disability were twice as likely to be unemployed (10%) as those without disability (4.6%).

Employment needs

In 2018, 88% of employed people aged 15–64 with disability did not require additional support from their employer to work.

Readiness to hire

In 2022, 30% of employers said their workplaces were more prepared to hire someone with disability now than they were 12 months ago.

Reporting on employment and financial security of people with disability and employer attitudes for Australia's Disability Strategy

Australia's Disability Strategy 2021–2031 (the Strategy) is Australia's national disability policy framework. It sets out a plan for continuing to improve the lives of people with disability in Australia over the 10 years to 2031.

The Strategy is supported by an Outcomes Framework. The Outcomes Framework is a key initiative under the Strategy to measure, track and report on the outcomes for people with disability across 7 outcome areas.

One of these outcome areas is Employment and financial security. This outcome area is about making it easier for people with disability to work and earn money. It includes 3 priorities with a total of 10 measures that are used to track what changes over time:

  • Economic participation priority:
    • Disability Employment Services: Number of valid 52-week full outcome claims for employment in the 12-month period for people with disability (31,281 claims in 2022–23)
    • Employment services: Proportion of people with disability using jobactive who obtained at least one job placement within a 12-month period which later converted to a 26-week outcome (7.6% in 2021–2022)
    • NDIS participants job support: Proportion of NDIS participants who get the support they need to do their job (62% in 2023–24 Q2)
    • Unemployment gap: Gap in proportion of people with disability in the labour force who are unemployed, compared with proportion of people without disability (4.7 percentage points in 2018)
    • NDIS participants in full award wage employment: Proportion of NDIS participants aged 15–64 in the labour force who are in open employment at full award wage (22% in 2023–24 Q2)
  • Transition to employment priority:
    • VET graduate employment: Proportion of Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduates with disability who are employed on completion of training (62% in 2023)
    • Young NDIS participant employment: Proportion of young NDIS participants (aged 15–24) in employment (19% in 2023–24 Q2)
    • Young people in employment: Proportion of young people (aged 15–24) with disability in the labour force who are employed (76% in 2018)
  • Economic independence priority:
    • Public sector employment: Proportion of Australian Public Service employees with disability (5.1% in June 2023)
    • Median gross income gap: Gap in median gross income for people with disability aged 15–64 years compared with people without disability ($511 per week in 2018).

Note: the numbers reported in this summary box and on the Reporting on Australia's Disability Strategy 2021–2031 website may differ slightly from the numbers reported elsewhere in this report, due to different data sources, age groups, reporting periods, or due to confidentiality processes.