$40 billion economic boost predicted if more people with disability employed

Mon 3 December 2012

Newly released data from Australian Network on Disability (AND) for International Day of People with Disability (December 3) indicates that increasing workforce participation for people with disability by just ten percent would result in a cumulative boost to Australia’s GDP of $40 billion in the next decade.

The report reveals that an increase in employment over the next decade from 54% to 64% of working age Australians with disability would boost the nation’s GDP by $40 billion[1] and more than cover the costs for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The report, commissioned by AND and undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics,  indicates that almost three-quarters of the 2.2 million working age Australians with a disability are able to work, yet only 54% of these are employed. This compares to a workforce participation rate of 83% for working age Australians without disability.

AND CEO, Suzanne Colbert AM, said that Australia will forego substantial economic benefits if the labour market disadvantage faced by people with disability is not addressed.

“The gap in participation rates would close by one-third if the workforce participation rate of people with disability was increased by just ten percent, but the obstacles are overly complex government employment programs, employer misconceptions and lack of support,” she said.

”Government systems are not sufficiently focused on the key role of bringing employers and people with disability together. There are many skilled and talented people with disability who are eager to enter the workforce, but if Australia is to achieve these economic benefits there will need to be more effective programs that work for people with disability and employers. .” 

Ms Colbert said there were substantial benefits to employing people with disability. “Research[2] shows that the cost of recruiting an employee with disability is generally lower, productivity is mostly equal or greater than other workers, and most workers with disability have better attendance and lower workplace health and safety incidents than those without a disability,” she said.

Australian businesses rank poorly on a global scale, with only 17 per cent of companies focusing on including people with disability as part of their workplace diversity programs. Australia is ranked 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employing people with disability[3]

 “Now that we are making progress on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it is time to ensure that skilled and talented people with disability also have the opportunity to work and share in the benefits of our economic prosperity,” Ms Colbert said.

See the full Deloitte Access Economics Report.

Media queries: For interviews and case studies, contact Lesley Branagan on 0422 702 868 or 02 9261 3922.


[1] The Economic benefits of increasing employment for people with disability, May 2012 by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by Australian Network on Disability. Modelling is undertaken by envisaging a scenario where GDP is estimated to be $13.0 billion above the reference case by 2021, and by 2031 – 10 years after the participation gap has been reduced – GDP is $20.3 billion higher, or 0.79% above the reference case. In today’s terms, this is equivalent to an increase in 2011 GDP of $11 billion.

[2] Graffam J, Shinkfield, A., Smith, K., & Polzin, U. (2002) ‘Employer benefits and costs of employing people with disability’, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation (17) 251.

[3] Disability Expectations: Investing in a better life, a stronger Australia. PwC 2011, p3.


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