Fewer than 33% of working-age people with disabilities employed

ESRI report says adults with disabilities are older and more likely to live alone

Fewer than a third of working-age people with disabilities are employed and without Government intervention this is unlikely to change, a report published on Thursday warns.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report says adults with disabilities are older and more likely to live alone than other adults. Some 50 per cent of people with disabilities are aged 45 or over compared with 33 per cent of non-disabled adults.

Drawing on data from the CSO’s quarterly national household survey, it finds: “Forty-two per cent [of adults with disabilities] had no more than the equivalent of a Junior Certificate. They were more likely to live alone and 42 per cent lived in a jobless household so were at a high risk of poverty.

“Just 31 per cent were at work, but most [82 per cent] had at least some work experience. One half of people with disabilities were either at work or interested in working,” says the report.


It finds people with disabilities were four times less likely to enter the workforce than people without a disability, and more likely to leave it.


It was not simply the disability which hindered people’s access to employment, but also characteristics associated with it.

“These include being older, having lower levels of education and living in a household where nobody is at work. Even taking these characteristics into account, however, the odds of employment entry for the non-employed were found to be only about half as high for people with disabilities as those without disability.”

The greater the impact of the disability the less likely they are to be in employment, with people with an intellectual disability having a “particularly low” likelihood of being in work.

Government policy, as set out in the 2015 Comprehensive Strategy for People with a Disability, is to have people with disabilities holding 6 per cent of public sector jobs by 2024. Given the interest in work among people with disabilities, this target is “reasonable”.

However, more must be done to enable people to stay in work and move into work. The latter group “is much larger” so “policy to enhance the employment opportunities of people with disabilities cannot afford to ignore this group”.


“Given the lower levels of education of those not in employment and the length of time since they last worked, the development of labour market skills will be important...This also has implications for the education of people with disabilities during their school years.”

The higher rate of exit of people with disabilities from employment needs to be looked at in more depth, say the authors. They ask whether potential employers underestimate what people with a disabilities can do, or whether people with disabilities have lower stamina or health.

“Given the diversity of circumstances of people with disabilities – in terms of the nature and severity of the disability and their level of education and family support – the optimum mix of income support, retention of benefits and employment support will need to be tailored to the individual’s specific needs.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times