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Education and Employment

ILO database highlights labour market challenges of persons with disabilities

Worker in wheelchair in a carpenter`s workshop with his colleague

There are an estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world, or 15 per cent of the global population. Most of them are of working age. New labour market indicators are now available on ILOSTAT that reveal the many challenges faced by persons with disabilities compared with persons without when it comes to the world of work.

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities enshrines “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others”, noting that “this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.” The Convention prohibits all forms of employment discrimination, calls for more accommodating work environments, and requires States parties to promote access to vocational training and self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Convention also includes provisions on the collection of statistical data (article 31). To obtain a more comprehensive picture of the situation of people with disabilities in the labour market, the ILO is now systematically producing and publishing data for a number of labour market indicators that help to quantify the disparities in the labour market outcomes of persons with and without disabilities. These include indicators related to the labour force, employment, unemployment, working time and earnings. Such statistics are essential for the development, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes aimed at promoting decent employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and safeguarding their labour rights.

A set of indicators is available in a new ILOSTAT database on labour market statistics of persons with and without disabilities. What do the data tell us? Here are some key takeaways.

Persons with disabilities are more likely to be inactive
The labour force participation rate of people with disabilities is very low. Globally1, seven in ten persons with disabilities are inactive (that is, neither in employment nor unemployed), compared with four in ten persons without disabilities. While the inactivity rate is higher for both women and men with disabilities than for those without, it is particularly high among women with disabilities. This suggests that they face a double disadvantage in the labour market on account of both their sex and their disability status. In all 60 countries with available data, the inactivity rate of women with disabilities was not only higher than that of women without, but also higher than the rates of men with and without disabilities.

Persons with disabilities face barriers to education
Persons with disabilities are twice as likely as those without to have a less than basic educational level.2 They are also half as likely to have an advanced level of education.

These findings confirm that persons with disabilities face a number of challenges, including barriers to education at an early stage of their lives. This has a significant impact on their subsequent labour market outcomes, since employment rates for both persons with disabilities and those without increase with the level of education. Moreover, educational attainment correlates with the skill level of the occupations that they are able to enter. The data show that persons with disabilities are less likely to work in high-skilled occupations.

It is therefore essential to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy equal access to education, and to have programmes in place that address gaps in their qualifications and skills.

Persons with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed
A higher unemployment rate among persons with disabilities than among those without is observed in more than half of the countries with available data. Their median unemployment rate stands at 7.6 per cent, compared with 6.0 per cent for persons without disabilities.

Any period of unemployment, especially a prolonged one, has a significant impact on future labour market outcomes. Longer spells of unemployment inevitably lead many persons with disabilities into inactivity or may force them to take up jobs in the informal economy.
In some countries where the unemployment rate among persons with disabilities is lower, this may well be because they cannot afford to remain unemployed owing to the absence of unemployment insurance systems or social safety nets. They thus resort to engaging in any form of economic activity, however insignificant or inadequate.

Persons with disabilities are only half as likely to be employed as those without
About a third of working-age persons with disabilities are in employment, which is roughly half the corresponding share of persons without disabilities.3 The employment gap between persons with and without disabilities increases with age.

According to a survey conducted in Mongolia, the main factors that would make it easier for persons with disabilities to find a job include the availability of workplaces that accommodate their needs; assistance with the allocation of suitable jobs; and the acquisition of higher qualifications, enhanced skills and work experience. This means that more persons with disabilities could work if they are given the right support at the right time, including adequate training opportunities.

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