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New report finds disability employment rates rise higher than those for non-disabled

14 January 2019

Setting the record straight: How record employment has changed the UK – Resolution Foundation

Setting the record straight: How record employment has changed the UK

Go to the report

This report finds that disabled people have accounted for about a third of the increase in employment in the United Kingdom between 2008 and 2018. The definition of disability is based on the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

  • the disability employment rate has risen by 6.1 percentage points, compared to a rise of 2.8 percentage points for those without disabilities.
  • Employment rates for high-qualified disabled people increased

The UK Government was elected on a manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap i.e. the difference between the rates of employed non-disabled people and employed disabled people. The gap was 32 percentage points in 2016 (depending on how disability is defined) and the target is to hit 16 percentage points in 2020.

The rise of 6.1 percentage points is welcome news but the All Party Parliamentary Group on Disability report Ahead of the Arc has noted that 1,074,000 (a third more) disabled people would have to be moved into employment to reach the16 percentage point target.

At the time of writing Ahead of the Arc the gap had narrowed by 1.3 percentage points in the four years since 2013, suggesting that it could take almost 50 years (until 2065) to narrow the gap to its target of 16 percentage points.

The new Resolution Foundation report suggests that the 50-year timescale may reduce slightly but also includes a caveat in that there has been a significant rise in the proportion of people reporting that they have a disability, and a rise in the proportion of people reporting mental health problems.

At the same, time employment rates have increased for the vast majority of these groups and have increased most starkly for people with depression and various physical ailments such as problems with hands, legs, feet, neck and back.

So, estimates for employment rates for disabled people are tricky.

Ahead of the Arc states that:

“..economic growth alone will not deliver the Government’s manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap even on the most favourable (and unrealistic) assumptions.

“Addressing this gap must become the responsibility of all Government departments to enact the promise on the disability employment gap and not simply the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). DWP spends around £350 million a year on back-to-work support but it is the money spent elsewhere by Government that potentially creates the greater opportunity. In the last financial year the Government spent some £242 billion on purchasing goods and services for the functioning of our economy and society. It is this procurement power that gives Government influence over disabled people’s job prospects and not simply its ability to fund appropriate employment support and social security arrangements. Our report looks at public procurement and finds it largely a missed opportunity to use that influence and help redress disability-related employment disadvantage.”



Rise in disability employment rates
Rise in disability reporting