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People with disabilities twice as likely to be unemployed

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

New research has shed light on the unemployment rate when it comes to those living with a disability.

One in six Australians, or 18 per cent of the population, are living with a disability, said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The People with disability in Australia 2022 report by AIHW noted that of these 4.4 million Australians affected, one in 10 who are working age are underemployed and are twice as likely to be unemployed.


Shaun Pianta, Australian Paralympian and atWork Australia disability employment services ambassador and disability awareness trainer, said more support is needed for disabled Australians.

“[There is] existing stigma relating to employees living with disability and [there is] work that still needs to be done to close this employment gap,” Mr Pianta said.

Not only will the utilisation of disabled workers empower the individuals affected, but it can create additional talent pipelines for businesses to assist in easing talent shortages.

“In a time where many businesses are struggling with labour shortages, there is a massive pool of talented people who are ready and willing to work,” Mr Pianta said.

“People living with disability aren’t looking for a hand-out or to be given a job because they have a disability. All they want is a fair opportunity in the recruitment process, for employers to have an open mind towards how a task can be done, and to be considered according to their skill set and experiences they can bring, not their personal situation.”

According to a statement from employment services provider atWork Australia, people living with disability have experienced discrimination in the workforce, including:

  • Twenty per cent have experienced discrimination in some form.
  • Forty-four per cent have avoided situations due to their disability.
  • Forty-eight per cent are unemployed currently, 32 per cent less than those without a disability.
  • Thirty per cent have experienced issues with workplaces not providing adequate facilities or support for disabled workers.

Mr Pianta continued: “Through my work, I’ve seen firsthand that fear of the unknown can lead employers to overlook employing people living with disability. But there is a motivated group of individuals, able and willing to prove them wrong. It’s time to challenge the way we think about disability when it comes to employment in Australia, to grow a more inclusive workforce.”

People with disability in Australia 2022 noted that 93 per cent of unemployed people with a disability had experienced difficulty in finding work. Fifty-three per cent of working-age people with disability are in the workforce, compared to 84 per cent of those without disability.

For change to happen, employers need to rethink their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy.

As reported by HR Leader, just 60 per cent of businesses have DEI strategy that accommodates those with disability.

According to The State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Australian Workplaces report: “There is an ethical, legal, economic and labour market imperative to creating diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces in Australia. The pathway to realising this potential lies in leaders, managers and HR professionals working together to transform workplace culture through more deliberate interventions for the good of all Australian employees.”




Disability is a persistent condition that limits an employee's capacity to carry out routine tasks. It refers to anything permanent or likely to be permanent, may be chronic or episodic, is attributable to intellectual, mental, or physical impairment, and is likely to require continuous support services.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.