Disability in the Irish Labour Market

People with a disability are substantially less likely to be active in the labour market and are more likely to experience discrimination.

In 2010, working-age people with a disability were less than half as likely to be active in the labour market (36% compared to 77% of other adults) and had a considerably higher unemployment rate (22% compared to 16% of other adults) than those without a disability, according to a new report published today (Wednesday 16th January) by the ESRI and the Equality Authority.

Evidence from EU data indicates that the employment rate of people with a disability is low in Ireland by European standards.

Furthermore, people with a disability are also more likely to have experienced discrimination. In 2010, 19 per cent of working-age people with a disability had experienced discrimination in the preceding two years compared to 13 per cent of other working-age adults.

But there have been improvements in the area of discrimination against people with a disability: there was a significant fall in the percentage of people with a disability who experienced discrimination between 2004 and 2010 (from 26% to 19%). This means that while people with a disability in 2010 were more likely than other adults to experience discrimination, the gap had narrowed compared to 2004.

The results are based on new analysis of the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey: Equality Module 2010, which asked over 16,800 adults in Ireland about their experience of discrimination in a range of different situations. This was combined with information on individuals’ labour market status. These data were collected after the labour market entered deep recession and in the report they are compared with data from the Equality Module conducted in 2004 during the economic boom. The report focused on people with a disability of working age (over 1,000 people with a disability aged 18 to 64, excluding students).

Other findings of the report included the following:

  • In 2010, people with physical disability and those with emotional/ psychological disability were less likely to be active in the labour market than those with other types of disability.
  • People with intellectual/learning disability are more likely to have experienced work-related discrimination in 2010 than people with a physical disability.
  • Since 2004 here has been an increase in unemployment among people with a disability (from 8 per cent to 22 per cent), while the percentage of people with a disability active in the labour market remained relatively stable at just over one third.
  • The change in labour market situation between 2004 and 2010 was different for men and women with a disability: the labour market participation rate of men with a disability increased slightly while the rate fell slightly for women with a disability.
  • Both discrimination in relation to work (in seeking work or in the workplace) and in relation to gaining access to services (such as shops, pubs, restaurants, financial institutions, health care, other public services) fell for working-age people with a disability between 2004 and 2010: work-related discrimination dropped from 16% to 10% while service-related discrimination fell from 21% to 15%.

Report author Dorothy Watson said: “There is considerable room to enable more people with a disability to enter employment in Ireland. Irish and international evidence suggests that, given the right circumstances and supports, about half of working-age people with a disability could be at work instead of the present figure of under one third.”
Welcoming the report, Renee Dempsey, CEO of the Equality Authority, said: “Despite moves to mainstreaming in disability employment policy, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ireland continues to be very low. There needs to be a renewed policy focus on increasing employment among people with a disability.”


Notes for Editors:

1. Disability in the Irish Labour Market: Evidence from the QNHS Equality Module 2010, by Dorothy Watson, Gillian Kingston and Frances McGinnity (ESRI), will be published online on the ESRI website at www.esri.ie, and The Equality Authority website at www.equality.ie at 00:01 a.m. Wednesday 16th January.
2. The embargo is until 00:01 a.m. Wednesday 16th January.
3. Members of the Media are invited to attend a media briefing at 11am Tuesday 15th January, at the ESRI.

4. This study was commissioned by The Equality Authority and is one of three reports based on analysis of the Equality Module 2010.
5. The study is jointly published by The Equality Authority and the Economic and Social Research Institute, and is supported by the European Union’s

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