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Employment gap for disabled people remains high

The disability employment gap for the June 2019 quarter was 46.5 percentage points, Stats NZ said today.

This gap, which is the difference between the employment rate for disabled and non-disabled people, has remained steady since the series began in 2017. In the June 2019 quarter, the employment rate for disabled people was 23.4 percent, compared with 69.9 percent for non-disabled people.

“Between April and June 2019, we asked people the Washington Group Short Set of questions which focus on activity limitations that may impact how they live their everyday lives,” labour market statistics manager Scott Ussher said.

“The activities included seeing (even with glasses), hearing (even with a hearing aid), walking or climbing stairs, remembering or concentrating, self-care, and communicating.”
Age is a strong determinant of disability, and over half of those identified as disabled in the June 2019 quarter were 65 years or older. This age difference increases the size of the disability employment gap. However, regardless of age, disabled people were less likely to be employed than non-disabled people.

For those aged 15–64 years, the disability employment gap was 38.0 percentage points. This gap remains large due to disabled people being less likely to participate in the labour force.

Disabled people aged 15–64 years reported the main reason for not looking for work was due to their own sickness, illness, injury, or disability (73.1 percent). For non-disabled people, the reasons were studying or training (39.4 percent), own sickness, illness, injury, or disability (19.4 percent), and looking after children (19.2 percent).

However, over a quarter of disabled people aged 15–64 years who were either not actively looking for work or not available to work reported that they would like to have a job.

“This highlights that there are disabled people not in employment even when they would like a job,” Mr Ussher said.

“Good quality work gives people a sense of purpose and can be positively associated with wellbeing.”

The unemployment rate for disabled people was 8.6 percent in the June 2019 quarter. This remains over twice that of non-disabled people, at 3.8 percent.

A significant decline in the underutilisation rate was seen for disabled people, with the rate falling 6.1 percentage points over the year to 19.3 percent. People are considered to be underutilised if they are unemployed, underemployed (part-time workers who would like to work more hours), or are part of the potential labour force. The potential labour force includes people who are not actively seeking work but are available to work, and those who are actively seeking work but are currently unavailable.

Employed disabled people were more likely to work part time (30.8 percent) than employed non-disabled people (20.0 percent). 12.8 percent of disabled and 8.3 percent of non-disabled employees were temporary employees, working in casual or seasonal jobs.

Disabled people worked on average 29.2 hours a week, while non-disabled people worked 34.5 hours. Disabled people working for wages and salaries earnt less per week than non-disabled people with a median income of $900, while non-disabled people earnt $1,016.

Labour force participation rate is labour force divided by working-age population: 25.6% disabled and 72.7% non-disabled, with a gap of 47.1 percentage points. Employment rate is employed divided by working-age population: 23.4% disabled and 69.9% non-disabled, with a gap of 46.5 percentage points. Unemployment rate is unemployed divided by labour force: 8.6% disabled and 3.8% non-disabled, with a gap of 4.8 percentage points. Underutilisation rate is total underutilised divided by extended labour force: 19.3% disabled and 10.6% non-disabled, with a gap of 8.7 percentage points. Median weekly income for wages and salaries: $900 disabled and $1,016 non-disabled, with a gap of $116.

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