Adults with disabilities are significantly less likely than people without disabilities to participate in the labour market and often experience lower earnings (Taylor et al., 2004; Pagan, 2009; Yamamoto et al., 2012), as well as limited opportunities for promotion and career advancement (Yamamoto et al., 2012). People with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment as their peers of working age (Action Plan for Jobs, 2014). As a result people with disabilities also experience consistently higher poverty rates than people without disabilities. The Central Statistics Office publication on ‘Our Bill of Health’ based on the results of the 2011 census clearly illustrates a lower rate of employment for people with disabilities in Ireland (CSO, 2011). The majority of people with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities and mental health problems, continue to be excluded for the labour market (CSO, 2011).
This essay poses a number of sub questions – when discussing where employment opportunities for people with disabilities will be created in the coming years, how these employment opportunities will be created must also be considered. It is also necessary to explore some of the barriers that are currently inhibiting progress towards increasing employment levels among people with disabilities.
Why is work important?
Employment is commonly considered to be a key factor in social inclusion (Skellern & Astbury, 2012). Workplaces have been identified as centres of the community, where adults, including those with disabilities, can form networks and contribute to society (Hall & Kramer, 2009). A job can enhance the self-esteem of an individual and help them feel accepted (Nolan, 2005). The UK Department of Education & Employment highlighted that ‘paid work has been widely acknowledged to be the source of positive identity, financial stability, to enhance wider life opportunities and is seen as a key indicator of social inclusion’ (2001).
Social isolation is common among people with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual disabilities (Hall & Kramer, 2009). Unemployment not only creates economic disadvantage but also decreases self-esteem and increases isolation and marginalisation (Stuart, 2006). Unemployment is considered to be one of the primary causes of exclusion in society, which can impact an individuals well-being, decrease their opportunities to participate in social and recreational activities, and lead to poverty or homelessness (Kitching, 2009; Nolan, 2005). Employment can help reduce stigma associated with having a disability in our society.
Where will the employment opportunities for people with disabilities be created?
The majority of employment opportunities for people with disabilities will be created within the mainstream labour market. There needs to be equality of opportunity for people with disabilities within the overall system. This raises the question about how to get an increased number of...