BCEC Report

Employment and disability in Australia: Improving employment outcomes for people with disability

Report SeriesFocus on The States
PublishedMarch 2024
PublisherBankwest Curtin Economics Centre
Number of Pages132

Employment and disability in Australia, the tenth report in the BCEC Focus on the States series, looks at improving employment outcomes for people with disability in Australia.

The report reveals that there has been no improvement in employment rates for people with disability in Australia over the last two decades, despite extensive policy reforms and greatly increased funding for supports and service delivery.

This represents a massive loss to the Australian economy, with the report showing that increasing employment of people with disability by 10 per cent could add $16 billion to economic output each year.

Aside from the obvious underutilsation of the talents of people with disability, the opportunity to work is fundamental to living a fulfilling life and to achieving autonomy and independence.

This report offers recommendations aimed at fostering a more inclusive workforce, including implementation of a ‘work first’ approach, enhancing public sector employment initiatives, promoting employer leadership in disability inclusion and improving education-to-work transitions, and the establishment of a National Disability Employment Agency.

Key findings

  • 53.1 per cent of people with a work-limiting disability were in a job in 2022, compared to 81.8 per cent of people without disability or long-term health condition, a gap of 28.6 percentage points. That gap has widened from 27.8 percentage points in 2001.
  • Total incidence of disability among working age people (15-69 years) declined from 18.0 per cent in 1998 to 14.4 per cent in 2018.
  • People with disability have been consistently 25-30 percentage points less likely to be employed than those without disability over the past two decades.
  • For people with disability, having a university degree is associated with an additional 16.2 per cent higher probability of being in work over and above the 18.2 per cent effect observed for people without disability.
  • For full-time workers with disability, typically 25 per cent will have left full-time employment one year later, compared to just 10 per cent for full-time workers without disability.
  • By industry, the health care and social assistance sector has the largest proportion of people with disability in its workforce (21.7 per cent).
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing has the highest over-representation of workers with disability, at 6.3 percentage points above their overall share in the workforce. Mining has by far the highest under-representation (6.4 percentage points).
  • Modelling suggests being a NDIS client reduces a person’s chance of being in employment and reduces their chance of transitioning into work by around seven percentage points.
  • 26 per cent of people with disability report transport issues as a barrier to finding work, compared to 16 per cent of jobseekers without disability.
  • 35 per cent of carers have a work-limiting disability themselves, compared to 15 per cent of people without caring roles.

Read the easy read version of the report here

Watch the online launch of Employment and disability in Australia here