Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) People with disability in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 04 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). People with disability in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
People with disability in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 05 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. People with disability in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Dec. 4]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, People with disability in Australia, viewed 4 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
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of employed working-age people with disability do not require additional support from their employer to work
of employed working-age people with disability do not need time off from work because of their disability
of employed working-age people with disability experienced disability discrimination in the previous year
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Some working-age (15–64) people with disability, especially those with employment restrictions, can find engaging in the labour force challenging.
Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers
Data in this section are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The SDAC is the most detailed and comprehensive source of data on disability prevalence in Australia.
The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least one of a list of limitations, restrictions or impairments, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities.
The limitations are grouped into 10 activities associated with daily living – self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance, and meal preparation. The SDAC also identifies 2 other life areas in which people may experience restriction or difficulty as a result of disability – schooling and employment.
The severity of disability is defined by whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with 3 core activities – self-care, mobility, and communication – and is grouped for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation. People who always or sometimes need help with one or more core activities, have difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends, or can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication are referred to in this section as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.
Some people with disability need specific arrangements to work, such as working part-time, specific leave arrangements or other supports such as being allocated different duties. The majority do not. Most employed (88% or 684,000) and unemployed (82% or 92,000) working-age people with disability do not require specific arrangements from their employer to work.
Most (88% or 684,000) employed (salary or wage earning) working-age people with disability do not require specific arrangements from their employer to work. Of those who do:
Special support person, help from someone at work or training(c)
Provided equipment, transport/parking, modified buildings/fittings(d)
Allocated different duties
(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who are employed wage or salary earners.
(b) Because of their disability.
(c) Includes special support person to assist or train on the job, provided help from someone at work and provided training/retraining.
(d) Includes provided special equipment, modified buildings/fittings, provided special/free transport or parking.
Note: More than one arrangement may be reported.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL2.
One in 5 (18% or 136,000) employed (salary or wage earning) working-age people with disability need at least one day a week off work because of their disability. Of those who use specific leave arrangements at least one day a week, the most common arrangement is to work:
Employed working-age people with severe or profound disability are more likely (33% or 32,000) to use specific leave arrangements at least one day a week because of their disability than those with other disability (15% or 104,000) (ABS 2019).
Leave arrangements used
Employed people with disability
Leave without pay
(b) At least one day a week because of their disability.
(c) Includes recreation/annual leave, WorkCover/worker's compensation, and other.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL6.
Of working-age people with disability who are employed wage or salary earners, the most likely to use specific leave arrangements at least one day a week are those with psychosocial disability (38% or 48,000). The least likely to use specific leave arrangements are those with:
Disability group is a broad categorisation of disability. It is based on underlying health conditions and on impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. It is not a diagnostic grouping, nor is there a one-to-one correspondence between a health condition and a disability group.
The ABS SDAC broadly groups disabilities depending on whether they relate to functioning of the mind or the senses, or to anatomy or physiology. Each disability group may refer to a single disability or be composed of a number of broadly similar disabilities. The SDAC identifies 6 separate groups based on the particular type of disability; these are:
Most (93% or 105,000) working-age people with disability who are unemployed report at least one difficulty finding work, compared with 83% (or 453,000) without disability. Own ill health or disability is the most common reason for those with disability (45% or 47,000), followed by:
Difficulties finding employment
Own ill health or disability
Lacked necessary skills or education
Considered too old by employers
Too many applicants for available jobs
Insufficient work experience
No vacancies at all
No feedback from employers
Child-care availability or other family responsibilities
(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who have difficulties in finding employment.
(b) Includes too far to travel/transport problems, unsuitable hours, considered too young by employers, difficulties because of ethnic background or language, and other difficulties.
Note: More than one difficulty may be reported.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL8.
Among unemployed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability aged 15–64 who report at least one difficulty in finding employment, the top 3 difficulties in finding work are:
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
Data in this section are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). The NATSISS collects information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in private dwellings across Australia on a range of demographic, social, environmental and economic characteristics.
The NATSISS uses the ABS Short Disability Module to identify disability. While this module provides useful information about the characteristics of people with disability relative to those without, it is not recommended for use in measuring disability prevalence.
In the NATSISS, a person is considered to have disability if they have one or more conditions (including long-term health conditions) which have lasted, or are likely to last, for at least 6 months and restrict everyday activities. Disability is further classified by whether a person has a specific limitation or restriction and then by whether the limitation or restriction applies to core activities or only to schooling or employment.
The level of disability is defined by whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment, with 3 core activities – self-care, mobility, and communication – and is reported for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation.
Employed working-age people with disability (11% or 89,000) are less likely than those who are unemployed (24% or 23,000) to have experienced disability discrimination in the previous year (ABS 2019).
For more than 2 in 5 (45% or 40,000) employed working-age people with disability, the source of that discrimination was an employer. For about 2 in 5 (42% or 37,000), it was a work colleague (Table CHALLENGES.4).
For more information on discrimination, see Disability discrimination.
Source of discrimination
All in the labour force(c)
(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who had a personal interview.
(b) Because of their disability in the last 12 months.
(c) Includes employed and unemployed people.
(d) Includes family or friends, teacher or lecturer, health staff (GP, nurse, hospital staff), bus drivers/rail staff/taxi drivers, restaurant/hospitality staff, sales assistants, strangers in the street, and other.
Note: More than one source may be reported.
Unemployed working-age people with disability (52% or 50,000) are more likely than those who are employed (35% or 299,000) to have avoided situations because of their disability in the previous year. Of those who avoided situations, unemployed people (28% or 14,000) were less likely than employed people (39% or 116,000) to have avoided work (Table CHALLENGES.5).
Situation(s) other than work(c)
(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who had a personal interview and are in the labour force.
(b) In the last 12 months because of their disability.
(c) Includes visiting family or friends, school, university or educational facility, medical facilities (GP, dentist, hospital), shops, banks, restaurants, cafés or bars, public transport, public park or recreation venue, other social situations, other public places, and other.
Note: More than one situation may be reported.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL12.
People with disability who have specific restrictions related to employment can face additional challenges finding or keeping employment.
Not all people with disability have employment restrictions and a person’s level of restriction may differ from their level of limitation in other life areas. For example, of working-age people with severe or profound disability:
Many (68% or 1.4 million) working-age people with disability have one or more employment restrictions. Of those, the most common types are:
What are employment restrictions?
In the SDAC, an employment restriction means a person meets one or more of the following:
A person's overall level of employment restriction is determined by their highest level of limitation. Restriction levels are:
Profound – the person's condition permanently prevents them from working.
Severe – the person:
Moderate – the person:
Mild – the person requires:
The types of restrictions reported by working-age people with disability differ by labour force status (Figure CHALLENGES.1).
Figure CHALLENGES.1: Type of employment restrictions for people with one or more employment restriction, by labour force status, 2018
Bar chart showing 9 categories of employment restrictions for working-age people with disability who have at least one restriction. The reader can select to display the chart by 4 categories of labour force status: not in labour force, unemployed, employed and all statuses. The chart shows employed people with disability are less likely (7.4%) to require ongoing supervision or assistance than those with disability who are unemployed (21%).
Source data tables: Employment needs and challenges (XLSX, 113KB)
Almost one-third (32% or 664,000) of working-age people with disability have no employment restriction. Almost 3 in 10 (28% or 187,000) of this group are not in the labour force (Table CHALLENGES.6).
More than one-third (35% or 725,000) of working-age people with disability have mild or moderate employment restriction (Table CHALLENGES.6). This group, and the group with no employment restriction, are the most likely to be employed (68%, compared with 6.7% with severe or profound restriction).
One-third (32% or 668,000) of working-age people with disability have severe or profound employment restriction. This group is the most likely to not be in the labour force (89%, compared with 28% with no employment restriction and 25% with mild or moderate restriction) (Table CHALLENGES.6).
Not in the labour force
All working-age people with disability (row %)
(a) Aged 15–64 living in households.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL26.
Data in this section are sourced from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Survey is a nationally representative, household-based longitudinal study of Australian households and individuals conducted in annual waves since 2001. Members of selected households who are Australian residents and aged 15 or over are invited to participate in a personal face-to-face interview. This section presents cross-sectional analyses of the 17th wave (2017). In 2017 almost 18,000 people from around 10,000 households participated in the HILDA survey.
The HILDA Survey defines disability as an impairment, long-term health condition or disability that restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for 6 months or more. This is similar to the definition of disability used by the ABS Short Disability Module (Summerfield et al. 2019; Wilkins et al. 2019).
How is remoteness defined?
The remoteness categories used in HILDA are based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Area framework (Summerfield et al. 2019).
The HILDA Survey collects information on 17 disability types, which have been combined into the following 6 disability groups:
In 2017, HILDA Survey participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with their employment opportunities on a 0–10 scale. Ten represents the highest level of satisfaction and 0 the lowest (DSS and MIAESR 2019). In this analysis, people who indicate a satisfaction level between 0 and 5 are referred to as not being satisfied. People who are retired, permanently unable to work, or for whom satisfaction with employment opportunities was coded as not applicable, unknown or refused were excluded from this analysis.
People aged 15–64 with disability, who are not retired or permanently unable to work and who indicated their level of satisfaction, are twice as likely (36%) to be not satisfied with their employment opportunities as those without disability (18%). For people with disability, this varies by remoteness and disability group:
Data tables for this report.
ABS Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2016) Microdata: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, ABS cat. no. 4720.0.55.002, AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data, accessed 30 September 2021.
ABS (2019) Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2018, ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002, AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data, accessed 4 August 2021.
DSS (Department of Social Services) and MIAESR (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Social Research) (2019) The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, general release 18 (wave 17), doi:10.26193/IYBXHM, ADA Dataverse, AIHW analysis of unit record data, accessed 12 October 2021.
Summerfield M, Bright S, Hahn M, La N, Macalalad N, Watson N, Wilkins R and Wooden M (2019) HILDA user manual – release 18, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, accessed 12 October 2021.
Wilkins E, Laß I, Butterworth P and Vera-Toscano E (2019) The Household, Income and Labour, Dynamics in Australia Survey: selected findings from waves 1 to 17, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, accessed 12 October 2021.
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