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Designing effective policies to support the labour market (re)integration of inactive people with disabilities

Roughly one in six people of working age in the EU has a long-term illness or disability that makes it difficult for them to carry out everyday activities such as getting dressed or travelling. Although the vast majority do not have a severe disability that makes it impossible to work, according to EU SILC 2019 data, only 55% of them were working and 7% were looking for work. 36 percent of those not in work lived in poverty, with a per capita household income of less than 60 percent of the median. As the EU's new Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 states, for working-age people with disabilities, employment is the best way to ensure financial independence and social inclusion.

Although the goal is clear, achieving it is no easy task. The employment rate of people with disabilities rose by just under 5 percentage points between 2011 and 2019, when most EU Member States experienced a vibrant economy and growing employment. This suggests that there are deep structural reasons, rather than simply low demand or discrimination, that hamper improvement in labour market integration. In our report for EASPD, we found that the causes are partly on the supply-side: 96% of the working-age but non-working disabled population have other disadvantages in addition to their physical or mental disability (which may be compensated for by job adaptation or assistive devices): 39% have no upper secondary education and have not worked for more than a year, 30% have at least upper secondary schooling but are long-term unemployed and aged over 54 years.

The proportion of people who start their job search without such disadvantages is less than 4%. This may explain why employment rates for people with disabilities tend to be higher in countries where public services for the long-term unemployed are well developed (such as in the Nordic countries) or where there is a larger small business sector providing personalised assistance or self-employment for disadvantaged jobseekers (as in Cyprus).

What policies may improve the situation? As we have seen, prolonged inactivity may be one of the main obstacles: countries that perform well on labour market integration have a strong focus on preventing that. Employment rates are higher where welfare benefits are better targeted, and where employment rehabilitation starts early. Beside preventive measures, there is also a need to ensure that good quality rehabilitation services (skills development, mentoring, work trials) are available to the long-term unemployed, to allow more flexibility in combining disability cash benefits with work, and to give employers stronger incentives (quotas, wage subsidies, anti-discrimination counselling) to create inclusive workplaces.

Project details

BI was awarded the contract following a call for tender by the European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities(EASPD). In the project we reviewed the existing literature, analised individual level survey data (mainly EU-SILC) and conducted interviews with experts and stakeholders to identify the main barriers to labour market integration of people with disabilites. The analyis was complemented by detailed case studies for six countries (Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the UK). The final report published in April 2022 offers policy recommendations to better implement the new European Disability Strategy.

ClientEuropean Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities
Project leader Ágota Scharle Judit Krekó
Duration02/08/2021 - 28/02/2022
summary Supporting economically inactive persons with disabilities on to the labour market (in Hungarian)