National Disability Insurance Scheme
As the National Disability Insurance Scheme starts to come into effect in many parts of Australia, many disabled persons will finally get the support they need to realise their potential, have access to more choices in how they live and be in control of their lives.
Part of that potential is the ability to pursue a career in the area of their choice, and benefit from the personal satisfaction and financial freedom a job can give. Not only would this be good for individuals, but there are significant benefits for the country as well.
Disabilities Employment Opportunities
Recently released data from the Australian Network on Disability indicates that by simply increasing the workforce participation rate for people with a disability by just 10% would create an overall increase of $40 billion in Australia’s GDP over a decade. This would more than offset the cost of running the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Disabilities: Who Is Current Employed?
Commissioned and undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics, the report indicates that working age Australian’s living with a disability are an under utilised resource – more than three quarters of the 2.2 million individuals are able to work, but only 54% are actually employed. This compares to an 83% workforce participation rate among working age Australians without a disability. A 10% increase in the workforce participation rate among disabled persons, to 64%, would achieve the $40 billion boost.
Lack of skills or willingness are not the limiting factors – rather, the major obstacles to participation in the workforce for people with disability include employer misconceptions, lack of support and overly complicated employment programs run by the government.
Disabilities: How Can We Improve Employment Rates
In order to achieve these benefits, more effective work placement programs need to be developed to bridge the gap between employers and employees. There are even significant benefits to choosing an employee with a disability over other workers – research has shown that recruitment costs are often lower, attendance is better, there is typically less workplace health and safety incidents and productivity is equal or greater.
The report used the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of ‘disability’ – ‘any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months’ which includes conditions such as speed difficulties, loss of sight, loss of hearing, difficultly learning or understanding, a disfigurement or deformity, incomplete use of limbs and appendages such as fingers or feet.
Mental illness or other conditions requiring help or supervision is also included, as is long-term effects of head injury, stroke or other brain damage, chronic pain or discomfort causing restriction and blackouts, fits or loss of consciousness among others.
Australian Disabilities Employment
Currently Australia is trailing behind other economically developed countries in employing people with a disability. Australia is ranked 21st of out 29 OECD countries when it comes to employing people with a disability – only 17% of Australians place a focus on hiring disabled people as part of their workforce.
With the potential for significant social and personal benefits for individuals, their communities and the country as a whole, perhaps it should be made a higher priority in Australian society. Many of the systems are already in place, it only requires that they be made more effective and an emphasis placed on getting people with a disability, who are willing and able to work, back into employment and enjoying the rewards it brings.