Employment rates fall for people with disability

Thu 2 February 2017

A man using a motorised wheelchair completing a form, assisted by a smiling carer

Employment and social participation rates have fallen among Australians with disability.

The disappointing findings are reported in the Australian Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2017, published on 24 January.

The report shows that the number of people with disability in employment fell by around six per cent and, the unemployment rate for the group has worsened by three per cent, since 2009.

According to Suzanne Colbert AM, CEO at the Australian Network on Disability (AND), the results are made even more disheartening because statistics for the general population have improved. “The gap for people with disability seems to be widening. More and more people are finding it harder to find meaningful employment. It’s really very concerning,” she said.

The report also showed that people with disability are also finding it harder to take part in social and recreational activities. They have less face-to-face contact with family and friends and travel to fewer social activities.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) takes a lifetime approach, that is intended to support people with disability to build skills and capability to increase participation in employment and the community.

“People with disability are skilled and capable social and economic contributors, who are entitled to equitable opportunities in society. This report supports the importance of the NDIS and how vital it is to continue to invest in people with disability,” said Ms Colbert.

The underutilisation of people with disability also means that Australian businesses are also missing out on valuable candidates and customers.

“Our Disability Confidence Survey shows that businesses identify significant benefits when they employ people with disability. This includes greater customer loyalty and satisfaction, improved productivity, and strengthening workplace morale,” said Ms Colbert.

For businesses that want to improve their ability to welcome customers and employees with disability, AND’s Design for Dignity Retail Guidelines offer valuable advice.

“When businesses take simple measures to become more accessible to people with disability, everyone benefits,” said Ms Colbert.

Key findings

The Report on Government Services 2017, examined government services across the disability, aged care, child protection and youth justice sectors.

  • Labour force participation and employment-to-population rates for people aged between 15 and 64 with profound disability fell by around 6 per cent between 2009 and 2015.
  • The unemployment rate for the group also slipped from 10.6 per cent in 2009 to 13.7 per cent in 2015.
  • The 139,200 Australians who have ‘profound or severe core activity limitations’ in 2015 had five per cent less face-to-face contact with family and friends and travelled to social activities less (a decrease of six per cent).
  • Total government (federal and state) spending on specialist disability services was $8.4 billion in 2015/16, an increase of 2.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

Despite the disappointing findings of the report, AND remains positive.

“We believe that Australian organisations are poised for change and making a concerted effort to be more welcoming to people with disability as customers and employees,” said Ms Colbert

For more information about welcoming people with disability as employees, customers and stakeholders, please visit the Australian Network on Disability’s website.

About the report

The Report on Government Services 2017, examined government services across the disability, aged care, child protection and youth justice sectors.

Visit the Productivity Commission’s website for a copy of the full report.

About the Australian Network on Disability

Founded in 2000, the Australian Network on Disability is a national, membership based, for-purpose organisation, that aims to advance access and inclusion of people with disability in all aspects of Australian business, including; employment, customer service, stakeholder relations and supply of goods.

Member organisations have access to a network of highly skilled relationship managers and training consultants, who are experts in providing training, advice and resources to support disability access and inclusion.

Media Contact

Megan Bishop

Marketing & PR Manager

Australian Network on Disability

Ph: (02) 8270 9200

Mobile: 0405 624 232

Email: Megan.Bishop@and.org.au

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