Disappointing job results for people with disability

Tue 3 December 2013

Good intentions & significant reforms, but disappointing job results for people with disability

As we celebrate International Day of People with Disability[1] with the theme of “breaking barriers and opening doors”, new data indicates that barriers are increasing and more doors to employment are closed to jobseekers with disability. 

New data from Australian Bureau of Statistics[2] indicates that the workforce participation of people with disability went backwards from 54.3% to 52.8% during the period 2009 to 2012 - an indicator that many people gave up looking for work[3].  Jobseekers with disability found it harder to find a job, and unemployment went up (from 7.8% to 9.4% in the period 2009-2012), further widening the unemployment gap between those with disability and those without.

In our media release for International Day of People with Disbility, our CEO, Suzanne Colbert AM, said that statistics for people with disability have indeed regressed over the past 10 years[4], despite good intentions and significant reforms.

“A decade of stagnation indicates that it’s time for change,” said Ms Colbert.  “What’s more concerning is that there is no government blueprint for the future that will link skilled and talented jobseekers with disability to industry growth sectors. A demand-led employment approach that puts people with disability and employers at the heart is required”.

While a common perception is that building design is a barrier to jobseekers with disability, only 3% need building modifications to improve accessibility.  A more significant barrier relates to flexibility in the workplace (the type of role and hours)[5]. Another key barrier is the need for training or retraining[6], and this is where employer demand-led strategies can yield good results.

Ms Colbert said that employers benefit from ensuring that their recruitment and retention systems are equitable and barrier free, as they can recruit from a wide talent pool and retain employees with valuable skills.

“Given the new government’s focus on productivity, new opportunities need to be created,” said Ms Colbert. “It’s time to create high success rate programmes that put talented people with disability and employers at the heart of the system. Boosting the workforce participation of people with disability will allow these jobseekers to share in Australia’s economic prosperity, and to help businesses reflect the community in which they operate.”

See Canberra Times article Good intentions & significant reforms, but disappointing job results for people with disability.

The Greens media release Welfare to work mentality leaving people with disability in poverty.



[1] International Day of People with Disability is celebrated on 3 December every year around the world.

[3] The total number of people with disability in employment went backwards (from 1.086million to 1.052million), despite the overall percentage of the population with disability remaining the same at 18.5%.

[4] In 2003, the participation rate of people with disability in the workforce was 53.2%, went up to 54.3% in 2009, and then dropped to 52.8% in 2012.

[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Table 11.1  Persons with disability aged 15-64 years, living in households, Labour force status

[6] For unemployed people with disability requiring training or retraining, the unemployment rate is high, at 16.1%.

< Back