DisabilityClick here to download the Disability Report [PDF - 2MB]
People with a disability living in Australia commonly
experience poorer economic and social outcomes compared to many other members
of society1, 2, 3. In 2008, Australia made a commitment to support people with a
disability and their rights to inclusion and participation in Australian
society by ratifying the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). These
include their rights to health; education and employment; social and family
participation; an adequate standard of living; and freedom from violence and
According to data from the HILDA survey, approximately 1 in 5 people in Australia has a disability. The proportion of the population with a disability remained relatively stable between 2001 and 2013. While there was a statistically significant increase from 19% to 21%, between 2001 and 2006, this dropped to 20% in 2011 where it remained stable to 2013. Despite these small fluctuations within the period, there was no statistically significant difference between the prevalence of disability in 2001 and 2013.
Types of disability
Our analysis of HILDA data reveal that of people with a disability, more than half (61%) reported having a physical disability in 2006. When comparing between 2006 and 2013, there was no significant change in the proportion of people reporting a physical disability.
‘Other’ was the second most commonly reported category, according to HILDA, with more than half of people with a disability reporting one classified as other than sensory, physical, psychological, or intellectual.
The proportion of people with a disability who reported having a sensory disability remained stable between 25 to 26% across 2006, 2011 and 2013. Similarly, approximately 4 to 5% of people with a disability had an intellectual disability, with the proportion of people with an intellectual disability not significantly changing over these years.
In 2006, approximately 17% of people with a disability reported having a psychological disability. This proportion then rose to 19% in 2011 and 20% in 2013. Our analysis of the HILDA data revealed that there was a significant increase in the proportion of psychological disability between 2006 and 2013. This is consistent with an increase in the proportion of people diagnosed with mental health and behavioural conditions in Australia between 2001 and 20124.
Participation in education & employment
People with a disability do not participate in education at the same rate as the general population. In 2013, data from the HILDA survey reveal that 89.6% of 15 to 19 year olds who had a disability were undertaking a course of study, compared to 92% of 15 to 19 year olds without a disability. Similarly, while 60% of 20 to 24 year olds without a disability were enrolled in a course of study, only 40% of people with a disability in that age group were.
However, when looking at people 25 years old and over, there was only a 7 percentage point difference between people with a disability and the general population.
People with a disability also do not participate in employment at the same rate as those without a disability. According to HILDA data, over the 2001 to 2013 period, on average, 35.3% of people with a disability were employed, when compared with 68.4% of the population without a disability, 3.9% were unemployed and 60.8% were out of the labour force, compared to 4.5% and 27% respectively for people without a disability.
Between 2001 and 2013, according to data from the HILDA survey, the proportion of people with a disability reporting being unable to work due to their disability significantly increased from 2.1% to 6.4%. The figures remained stable between 2011 and 2013.
other hand, the percentage of people reporting their disability had no impact
on their work significantly increased between 2001 and 2013. In 2001, HILDA data show that 26% of
people reported their disability had no impact on their work and employment.
This significantly increased to 30.5% in 2006, remained unchanged in 2011, and
significantly increased further to 32.6% in 2013.
According to HILDA data, there was also a significant decrease between 2001 and 2013 in the proportion of people reporting their disability restricted the number of hours they could work or the type of job they could do. Approximately 60% of people with a disability reported experiencing such restrictions in 2013 compared to 72% in 2001. Most of the change however occurred between 2001 and 2006, with a significant decrease from 72% to 65.7%. The figures remained stable between 2006 and 2011, followed by another significant decline between 2011 and 2013.
There is a high prevalence of disability in Australia with almost 1 in 5 people living in Australia reporting a disability. With the rapidly ageing population, this prevalence is likely to continue to increase. People with a disability do not participate in education and employment at the same rate as the general population, an area which must be addressed and improved in order to achieve their rights to inclusion and participation.
- COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA 2009b. Shut out: The experience of people with disabilities and their families in Australia. National Disability Strategy Consultation Report. prepared by the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council
- OECD 2010. Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - A Synthesis of Findings Across OECD Countries. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
- DOWSE, L., SOLDATIC, K., DIDI, A. & VAN TOORN, G. 2013. Stop the Violence: Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia. Background Paper. . Hobart: Women with Disabilities Australia.
- AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS. 2013a. 4338.0 Profiles of Health, Australia, 2011-2013 [Online]. Available: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4338.0main+features192011-13 [Accessed].