While 90% of working-age (15–64) people with disability in the labour force are employed, others face challenges seeking and engaging in employment. This is reflected in their generally lower rates of labour force participation and employment, and higher rates of unemployment, compared with working-age people without disability.

What is labour force status?

Labour force refers to the population aged 15–64 who are working or looking for work.

In the labour force:

  • people who are employed – people who reported they had worked in a job, business or farm during the reference week (the full week before the date of their survey interview); or had a job in the reference week, but were not at work
  • people who are unemployed – people who reported they were not employed during the reference week, and had actively looked for full- or part-time work at any time in the 4 weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week.

Not in the labour force:

  • people who are not employed
  • people who are not unemployed.

This includes people who undertake only unpaid household duties or other voluntary work, those who are retired, voluntarily inactive and those permanently unable to work (ABS 2018).

Employment is linked not only to income and economic security, but also to other aspects of wellbeing. Problems finding or keeping employment can, for example, have broader impacts on living conditions and opportunities for the individual, their family and the wider community (AIHW 2017).

This domain looks at:

  • the participation of working-age people with disability in the labour force (such as their rates of labour force participation, employment and unemployment)
  • how they participate in the labour force (for example, part-time versus full-time employment)
  • their occupations when employed
  • needs they may have in seeking or keeping employment.

Summary card 1 showing key statistics for labour force. The card shows that 59% of people aged 15-64 with disability who are not in the labour force are permanently unable to work. The most common reason given is their own condition or disability (91%). Summary card 2 showing key statistics for employment. The card shows that 48% of people aged 15-64 are employed, compared with 80% of those without disability. The most common occupations of people with disability are professionals (23%), and technicians and trades workers (15%).

Summary card 3 showing key statistics for underemployment. The card shows that 1 in 10 employed people aged 15-64 with disability are underemployed. Young people (aged 15-24) with disability are more likely to be underemployed (23%) than those aged 25-64 (8%). Summary card 4 showing key statistics for unemployment. The card shows that people aged 15-64 with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed (10%) as those without disability (5%). The unemployment rate for people with disability has risen from 8% since 2003, while the rate for people without disability has been steady.

Summary card 5 showing key statistics for employment needs and challenges. The card shows that 93% of unemployed people aged 15-64 with disability experience difficulties in finding employment. 17% of employed wage or salary earners aged 15-64 with disability use leave arrangements to have one day or more off per week because of disability; common leave arrangements are casual/part-time hours (53%) and flexible hours (25%).

Where can I find out more?

Data tables for this report.

More information: