Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Study: Employment among the disabled

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

1999 to 2004

When it comes to persons with a disability, the tendency is to think that they are affected their entire life. This may not be the case, since of all the persons who reported having a disability at some point between 1999 and 2004, only 13% were affected for the entire 6 years, while 36% were affected for only 1 year.

As the number of years of disability increases, the more the profile of those with activity limitations differs from those without such limitations. Persons affected for only 1 year are only slightly different from those with no reported limitations.

On the other hand, persons affected during the 6-year observation period are less likely to be university graduates, and more likely to be between 55 and 64 years of age, to be women, to live alone, not to have children, and to have fair or poor health.

Persons with a disability work, on average, fewer hours per year than persons with no disability. This gap persists even when socio-demographic characteristics are taken into account, and widens as the disability period increases.

For men, the adjusted work hour gap increased from 0% for those affected for only 1 year to 8% and to 13% for those affected for 2 to 3 years and 4 to 5 years, respectively. This gap reached 30% for men affected during the 6-year observation period. For women, the gap varied from 0% to 11%, 19% and 41% for those affected for 1 year, 2 to 3 years, 4 to 5 years and 6 years, respectively.

The effects of a disability are felt beyond the reported disability period. Persons with a disability have lower activity rates and work fewer annual hours than those with no disability, not only during disability years but also during years with no reported disability.

In 2004, the adjusted earnings gap went from 0% for persons with 1 year of disability to 19% and 17% for men and women with 6 years of disability. This gap persists even after socio-demographic characteristics are taken into consideration.

Persons with a disability do not appear more likely than those with no disability to experience work interruptions. Work interruption rates were 17% for men with no disability and varied between 16% and 20% for men with a disability. For women with no disability, the rate was 18%, and varied between 19% and 24% for women with a disability. Interruptions for health reasons were significantly more frequent for persons with a disability.

Since persons with a disability are less likely to be active in the labour market, they are more at risk of low income, and this higher risk persists even after socio-demographic characteristics are taken into account.

Furthermore, this risk is relatively higher for men: when they are affected by a disability for 6 years, they are 8 times more at risk of low income that those without a disability, while women are 4 times more at risk.

Note: The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) remains the national point of reference on disabilities, but contains no information on the longitudinal nature of disabilities or on the labour market activity of persons with a disability.

For this reason, this article is based on the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), which allows longitudinal analysis of disabilities. SLID covers approximately 97% of the Canadian population, except residents of the territories, and those living in institutions, on First Nations reserves and in military barracks.

The first part of this article is based on the cross-sectional sample from SLID examining the hours worked by persons with and without activity limitations in 2006. The second part is based on the longitudinal sample. Each panel of respondents, about 15,000 households or 30,000 adults, is surveyed for six consecutive years.

This article is based on the third SLID panel, which followed respondents from 1999 to 2004. Starting with this panel, the question on disability was modified to correspond with the filter questions from the 2001 and 2006 censuses. The differences between persons with and those without a disability are significant at the 5% threshold or better following the use of Bootstrap weights.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3889.

The article "Employment among the disabled" is now available in the May 2009 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, vol. 10, no. 5 (75-001-X, free), from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Diane Galarneau (613-951-4626;, Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division.