When we were first created, there was little in the way of Canadian statistics on how professionals with disabilities were doing after graduation or whenever they acquired a disability as a professional.
Back then, we referred to the Statistics Canada’s 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS – “Disability in Canada: A 2001 Profile”). It stated that for the core working-age adults with disabilities, age 25-54, the employment rate was at its peak with just over 51% employed compared to just over 82% for those without disabilities (a 31% difference). For older workers with disabilities, age 55-64, it was said to have been just over 27% employed compared to just over 56% for those without disabilities (a 28% difference). For youth, age 15-24, it was said to have been almost 47% employed compared to almost 57% for those without disabilities (a 10% difference). For all these age groups put together (i.e. 15-64), the employment rate for people with disabilities was almost 44% compared to just over 78% for those without disabilities (a 34% difference).
Another interesting possible employment rate indicator came from the Canadian Council on Social Development. If we assumed that professionals for the most part have higher education, according to the Council, higher education benefited people with disabilities in the labour market, but not as much as it did for people without disabilities. For example, in 1998, it found that 51.8% of men and 41.1% of women with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates were employed all that year compared to 82% and 73% of their respective non-disabled counterparts (about a respective 30% and 32% difference). When we did a cursory comparison of these numbers to the ones above from the 2001 PALS survey, we found that there was little difference in the employment rate of those people with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates compared to people with disabilities in general and their non-disabled counterparts. Such information echoes what we all know – that is having post-secondary education for people with disabilities is not the panacea to eliminating the barriers to their full participation in employment even though education helps to: garner and expand their employment opportunities (or unemployment/underemployment opportunities as some might say) and income earning prospects; provide them with the in-demand skills for today’s jobs (and the capacity necessary to keep their talents current, transferable, and responsive to the skills demand of our rapidly changing economy); being able to better themselves and their quality of life; and further enhance their independence and influence. The Council also made a similar finding by commenting that while education was important for people with disabilities in the labour market, they were also encountering other labour market barriers.
It is also interesting to note that during 1998, the Council found that 30.3% of men and 40% of women with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates were not in the labour force at all that year compared to 3.1% and 10.3% of their respective non-disabled counterparts (about a respective 27% and 30% difference).
For more information, please go to http://ccsd.ca/images/research/DisabilityResearch/PDF/dis2.pdf
[The Canadian Council on Social Development prepared the above statistics by using Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (masterfile)].
The unemployment rate is another matter. It is difficult to measure. In Canada, some say that the real unemployment rate for people with disabilities could be at least 50% (and that excludes those who are underemployed which could bring the cumulative rates up much higher), if you take into account other factors that are hard if not impossible to measure like those people with disabilities who may be considered as being identified as the “hidden unemployed” including those who have fallen off the grid of being counted towards the official unemployed numbers.
Many people with disabilities who long to work are no longer part of the official systems to collect statistics on unemployment rates, and even some of these systems have changed how they measure making it more difficult to make longitudinal comparisons. The percentage of people who collect employment insurance is an often-cited official measure of who is unemployed. Frequently, persons with disabilities find themselves in jobs that are too precarious, too part time and/or too short term to be able to contribute enough hours to be eligible for employment insurance so they are left out in this count. Then there are people with disabilities who have given up looking for work out of despair of not being able to find anything. The amount of continual rejection and roadblocks one receives when looking for work, and the toll it takes on one emotionally, physically, socially, and financially when doing so becomes too great especially when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel and/or this process has been going on for a very long time. Others look for work sporadically hoping things have changed, while many cannot afford to look for work, be employed, or look like they are employable out of fear of losing vital disability supports if they earn any income or show that they are employable (even if it is just volunteering but no one is actually hiring them).
Countless people with disabilities are just barely getting by on other often-limited supports that are not tied to any official body that could record that they are seeking employment.
Persons with disabilities are still more often than not relegated to marginalized and precarious employment. Many, for example, who want full time employment can only get part-time and/or short-term employment yet both are considered an employment stat. Short-term employment is especially deceiving because the person with the disability could be relegated to unemployment the rest of the year. Often they have long periods of unemployment. The rate of underemployment and sporadic employment is higher for people with disabilities than the general populous. As such, meaningful and sustainable employment is a major issue amongst people with disabilities. The longer that this continues, the harder it becomes to find meaningful and sustainable employment.
Men with disabilities are more likely to be employed than women and other marginalised groups with disabilities (even though it is a sad state of affairs for all groups concerned). Furthermore, the difficulty in securing and sustaining employment is greater for those who have certain types of disabilities (i.e.: including real or perceived severity of a disability and employers’/public unease with a disability type or disfigurement). Being older person with a disability can also another barrier to employment. When and how one acquired a disability also has an impact on the career success of a professional with a disability. (This is discussed further in Financial Disincentives to and in Employment and Not Every Person with a Disability is Treated Equally in Terms of Income and Supports)
Unfortunately, many professionals with disabilities who can and want to work must face lives that bring them lack of sustainable livelihoods because of subsistence living incomes, poverty, unemployment, short-term employment (or contract work), intermittent employment, and/or part time employment (for those who wanted full time). Many find themselves disconnected or precariously connected to the workforce and face social, professional, and economic isolation. Countless professionals with disabilities have been living like this for decades.
Even for working professionals with disabilities, there are still many work and quality of life issues that are not being adequately addressed. Poor or uncertain prospects, job retention concerns, low or unstable incomes, barriers to career development and advancement, training and promotion concerns, workplace issues, transportation, housing, disability supports, health care concerns, and planning for the present and future can still be problematic.
The Statistics Canada’s 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey stated that for youth, age 15-24, the labour participation rate (those who are employed or unemployed but seeking employment) was almost 52% compared to just over 66% for those without disabilities (a 14% difference). For workers aged 25-34, it was almost 67% for those with a disability compared to almost 87% for those without disabilities (a 20% difference). For workers aged 35-44, it was almost 69% for those with a disability compared to almost 89% for those without disabilities (a 20% difference). For workers aged 45-54, it was almost 63% for those with a disability compared to almost 89% for those without disabilities (a 26% difference). For older workers – aged 55-64, it was almost 43% employed compared to just over 65% for those without disabilities (a 22% difference). For all these age groups put together (i.e. 15-64), the labour participation rate for people with disabilities was almost 60% compared to just over 80% for those without disabilities (a 20% difference).
In 2006, for workers aged 15 to 64, 51.3% were employed, 4.9% were unemployed, and 43.9% were not in the labour force. For workers without disabilities in that age group, 75.1% were employed, 5.1% were unemployed, and 19.8% were not in the labour force. If we compare this to the 2001 stats, where for this age group, the employment rate for people with disabilities was almost 44% compared to just over 78% for those without disabilities (a 34% difference), that means the employment rate increased by approximately 7% for people with disabilities and decreased by around 3% for people without disabilities. Almost 50% of people with disabilities were not participating in the workforce in 2006 – that includes those who are on employment insurance and are looking for work compared to the 2001 stats where about 56% were not participating in the workforce. For those without disabilities, about 25% of them were not participating in the workforce in 2006 – that includes those who are on employment insurance and are looking for work compared to the 2001 stats where about 22% were not participating in the workforce.
According to the 2006 Census and the Labour Force Survey, the Canadian economy grew between 2001 and 2006.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities decreased from 13.2% to 10.4%. compared to people without disabilities that decreases from 7.4% to 6.8%.
The unemployment rates of both men and women with disabilities fell during this period.
Women with disabilities experienced more growth in employment than their male counterparts between 2001 and 2006. The growth for women during this period period resulted in more women with disabilities being employed than their male counterparts (692,110 versus 676,770.
According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability , just over “47% of 15- to 64-year-olds with disabilities reported that they were employed, compared with almost 74% of those without disabilities. More persons with disabilities (just over 45%) were not in the labour force compared to those without disabilities (almost 21%). A quarter (27%) of persons with disabilities who were employed indicated that their employer was not aware of their work limitation. Among the working-age population with disabilities, 24% required modified hours or days or reduced work hours.” Almost 8% of persons with disabilities were unemployed compared to almost 6% of persons without disabilities.
” A third (32%) of 15- to 24-year-olds with disabilities reported that they were employed; at ages 25 to 44 years, the percentage was 55%, and at ages 45 to 64 years, 46% (Table 5). Persons with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years and 25 to 44 years were equally likely to report being unemployed (11% and 10%), but those aged 45 to 64 years were significantly less likely to report being unemployed (4%). The percentages not in the labour force differed significantly by age group—35% at ages 25 to 44 years,7 compared with 50% at ages 45 to 64 years.”
“More people with disabilities are underemployed
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8.6 per cent, according to 2006 statistics, versus the Canadian average of 6.3 per cent. Overall, 8.5 per cent more men with disabilities are settling for part-time work because they cannot find full-time employment, compared to adult men without disabilities who are working part-time hours, according to a 2012 CRHC report. Proportionately, 6.5 per cent more women with disabilities work part-time but want to work full-time. The
Many companies aren’t hiring people with disabilities
Only three in 10 small business owners hired people with disabilities in 2013, matching levels from the previous year, according to a recent survey from BMO Financial Group. The study, released last month, found that the majority of small businesses (69 per cent) have never hired a person with a visible or invisible disability.
Bosses report being happy with disabled hires
Despite the lack of opportunity for disabled candidates, more than three-quarters of the employers surveyed by BMO in 2012 said that after recruiting disabled workers, the hires either met their expectations (62 per cent) or exceeded them (15 per cent).”