Working-age people with disability
are twice as likely to be unemployed (10%) as those without disability (4.6%)
of working-age people with severe or profound disability are unemployed
People aged 15–24
with disability are more than twice as likely to be unemployed (25%) as those aged 25–64 (7.9%)
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Working-age people with disability are more likely to be unemployed than those without disability. They are also more likely to be unemployed for longer.
How is unemployment defined?
Unemployed people are 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.
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’.
Working-age (aged 15–64) people with disability are more likely to be unemployed than those without disability. The unemployment rate of working-age people with disability (10% or 113,000) is twice that of those without disability (4.6% or 544,000) (Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.1).
Working-age people with severe or profound disability (13% or 17,000) have a higher unemployment rate than those with other disability (9.9% or 95,000) (Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.1).
The unemployment rate is the sum of the working-age (aged 15–64) population who are unemployed as a percentage of the working-age population participating in the labour force.
Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.1: Unemployment rate for people in the labour force, by disability status, age group and sex, 2018
Column chart showing unemployment rate of working-age people with and without disability. The reader can select to display the chart by sex, by age group, and by disability status. The chart shows people with disability aged 25–64 are more likely (7.9%) to be unemployed than those without disability (3.2%).
Youth (aged 15–24) with disability (25% or 38,000) are more likely than those aged 25–64 (7.9% or 75,000) to be unemployed (Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.1).
Working-age males with disability (11% or 63,000) are slightly more likely than their female counterparts (9.4% or 50,000) to be unemployed (Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.1).
Of working-age people with disability, those with sensory and speech disability (8.2% or 18,000) are less likely to be unemployed than those with psychosocial disability (24% or 51,000) or intellectual disability (18% of 23,000) (ABS 2019).
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:
- sensory and speech (sight, hearing, speech)
- intellectual (difficulty learning or understanding)
- physical (including breathing difficulties, chronic or recurrent pain, incomplete use of limbs and more)
- psychosocial (including nervous or emotional conditions, mental illness, memory problems, and social or behavioural difficulties)
- head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury
- other (restrictions in everyday activities due to other long-term conditions or ailments) (ABS 2019).
The unemployment rate for working-age people with disability has increased in recent years. While it remained relatively steady for working-age people without disability (around 5% between 2003 and 2018), it increased somewhat for those with disability (8% to 10%) (ABS 2019).
Working-age people with disability are more likely to be unemployed for longer periods than those without disability – 22% (or 24,000) of unemployed people with disability have been unemployed for at least one year, compared with 14% (or 73,000) without disability (Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.2).
Figure UNEMPLOYMENT.2: Duration of unemployment for unemployed people, by disability status, 2018
Column chart showing duration of unemployment for unemployed working-age people with and without disability. The chart shows unemployed people with disability are more likely (22%) to be unemployed for at least one year than those without disability (14%).
Around one-quarter (26% or 30,000) of unemployed working-age people with disability report home duties, or caring for children or other person(s) as their main activity since they last looked for work (Table UNEMPLOYMENT.1). This is less common among unemployed working-age males with disability (13% or 9,000) than their female counterparts (45% or 23,000). It is also less common among unemployed working-age males with disability than those without disability (22% or 58,000) (ABS 2019).
Selected main activities since last looked for work
Home duties, or caring for child(ren) or other person(s)(b)
Attending an educational institution
(a) Aged 15–64 living in households.
(b) Includes home duties or caring for child(ren), and caring for ill / disabled / elderly person(s).
Note: Categories not shown are: own short-term illness or injury, own long-term health condition or disability, retired or voluntarily inactive, travel, holiday or leisure activity, working in unpaid voluntary job, and other.
Source: ABS 2019; see also Table UNET10.
Unemployed working-age people with disability (20% or 22,000) are less likely than those without disability (29% or 157,000) to say their main activity since they last looked for work was attending an educational institution (ABS 2019).
Data tables for this report.