More than 1 million working-age people with disability are working or looking for work (are in the labour force). This has remained stable over 15 years – 53% of people aged 15–64 with disability participated in the labour force in 2018 (or 1.1 million) and 2003 (or 1.2 million). Among those with severe or profound disability 27% were in the labour force in 2018 and 30% in 2003 (ABS 2019).
How is labour force participation defined?
People who are in the labour force include those aged 15–64 who are employed or unemployed.
In the labour force:
- people who are employed include those who reported in the SDAC that they had worked in a job, business or 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 include those who reported in the SDAC that 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
- people who are 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 2018).
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’.
People aged 65 and over
Most (88% or 1.1 million) people with disability who participate in the labour force are aged 15–64. The rest are aged 65 and over (159,000).
People aged 15–64 are referred to as ‘working-age’ in this section.
With increasing life expectancies and improvements in health care, today’s Australians will grow older and live longer, healthier and more actively engaging lives than any previous generation (AIHW 2017). The eligibility age for the Age Pension is also increasing. For some older people, including those with disability, these factors may mean staying longer in the workforce.
People with disability have a lower labour force participation rate than people without disability. Just over half (53% or 1.1 million) of working-age people with disability are in the labour force, compared with 84% (or 11.8 million) without disability. This is particularly so for those with severe or profound disability (27% or 137,000 compared with 62% or 960,000 with other disability).
Labour force participation rate
The labour force participation rate is the number of working-age (aged 15–64) people who are employed or unemployed as a percentage of the working-age population.
Generally, males are more likely to be in the labour force than females (Figure LABOUR.1). This is true for people with and without disability:
- 56% (or 563,000) of working-age males with disability, compared with 51% (or 535,000) of females
- 89% (or 6.2 million) of working-age males without disability, compared with 80% (or 5.6 million).
Similarly, for those with severe or profound disability 31% (or 76,000) of males with disability are in the labour force compared with 24% (or 61,000) of females (ABS 2019).