People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and underutilised.

The latest statistics on disability status and employment show only 23.4 percent of disabled people were in employment and, of those, one in five were under employed. The unemployment rate for disabled people was 8.6 percent, compared with 3.8 percent for non-disabled people. Employment rate figures are very similar to 2017 figures, indicating little change in the past two years.

There was a disability employment gap of 38 percentage points for those aged 15-64 years, and 46.5 percentage points across all age groups.  Over half of the people who identified as disabled were over 65 years of age.  

Disabled people were also likely to earn less on average than people without disabilities.  The median income gap for those on wages and salaries was $116.  In addition, they were more likely to have no qualifications - 41.3 percent of those with disabilities had no qualifications, including school qualifications, compared to 16.1 percent of non-disabled people.

However, these statistics are likely to underreport the number of people who have an invisible disability which cannot be immediately seen. 

Examples of invisible disabilities include learning disabilities like Dyslexia and ADHD, neurological conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder, mental health conditions, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain.

The questionnaire used to identify disability, the Washington Group Short Set (WGSS), recommends that individuals have “a lot of difficulty” undertaking at least one of six activities in order to be identified as “disabled”.  This means those who have “some difficulty” will not be considered disabled even though this difficulty may have a drastic impact on their career options, employability, and self-esteem.  

They may also not self-identify with having difficulty with remembering, concentrating, or understanding language if they have undiagnosed learning disabilities and believe they just lack the right skills.  

For more information on disability labour market statistics visit Statistics New Zealand.