Reasons for not being in the labour force

Close to half (47%) of all people with disability are not in the labour force. Of these:

  • most (63%) are permanently unable to work
  • a few (1.7%) actively looked for work in the last 4 weeks, but are unable to start
  • 1 in 5 (21%) intend to look for work or return to work
  • 1 in 16 (6.1%) are unsure if they intend to return to work
  • 1 in 12 (8.1%) do not intend to return to or look for work (Figure 1).

This varies by age and sex (Figure 1).

Working-age people with disability who are not in the labour force are far more likely than those without disability to be permanently unable to work (63% compared with 1.7%). They are also much less likely to intend returning to work (21% compared with 63%).

People who are permanently unable to work

Of working-age people with disability who are permanently unable to work:

  • 9 in 10 (89%) said it was because of their own condition or disability
  • 1 in 7 (13%) said it was because of someone else’s ill health or disability.

When asked about requirements to enable workforce participation, 96% said they could not work at all. Some reported they may be able to participate if certain requirements were met, such as:

  • training (32%)
  • working at home (18%)
  • assistance with work or personal care tasks (18%).

People able to work

People able to work refers to working-age people not permanently unable to work.

People who do not intend to return to work

Of working-age people with disability able to work but not intending to return to work:

  • half (50%) have no need, are satisfied with current arrangements or are retired (for now)
  • 28% are permanently retired or will not work again
  • 14% are caring for an ill, disabled or elderly person
  • 12% cited their long-term health condition or disability (Figure 2).

Males with disability able but not intending to return to work (41%) are much more likely than their female counterparts (18%) to report they are permanently retired or will not work again. Females are more likely to report caring for children (11% compared with 0%) or for ill, disabled or elderly persons (16% compared with 3%) as reasons for not intending to return to work.

People who may return to work

People who may return to work are those who:

  • have not looked for work but intend to return to work
  • are not sure if they will return to work.

Their most common reasons for not looking for work are:

  • own ill health or disability (43%)
  • studying or returning to study (28%)
  • children too young or prefer to look after them (15%)
  • someone else’s ill health or disability (9%) (Figure 3).

Differences in reasons between males and females with disability who may return to work are similar to those for people who did not intend to return to work. For example, of working-age people with disability who may return to work:

  • males are more likely than females to give their own ill health or disability as a reason for not looking for work—51% compared with 38%
  • males are more likely to report studying or returning to studies as a reason—35% compared with 25%
  • females are more likely to cite family or relationship considerations as reasons for not looking for work:
    • children being too young or preferring to look after them—23% of females compared with 4% of men
    • someone else’s ill health or disability—12% compared with 2.6%
    • other family considerations—5.9% compared with 1.9%.

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016a. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

ABS 2016b. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of confidentialised unit record file in SAS.