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People with Disabilities in the Labour Market, 2011 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 02 December 2011 Download PDF

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Just under 1 in every 2 disabled people in employment

People with disabilities are less likely to be in employment than those without but the likelihood of being in employment varies significantly depending on the type of disability. In 2011, 45.6 per cent of people aged 16 to 64 with a disability that limits their daily activities, known as DDA disabled, were in work, accounting for around 3.2 million people across the UK. For those without a disability around 76.2 per cent were in work.

For those DDA disabled, around a third had a part-time job (33.8 per cent), compared to only a quarter of working people without a disability (24.6 per cent) so as well as a lower percentage in work, those working tend to work fewer hours.

Percentage of people with and without a DDA disability in employment, Q2 2011, UK

Percentage of people with and without a DDA disability in employment, Q2 2011, UK

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Employment rates vary by type of impairment

There are a variety of impairments that individuals who are DDA disabled report and there are variations in the likelihood that people with different types will be in employment. Employment rates were highest for people with:

  • Skin conditions, disfigurements or allergies (71.9 per cent)

  • Diabetes (61.5 per cent)

  • Heart, blood pressure or circulatory problems (57.8 per cent).

 Employment rates were lowest for people with: 

  • Severe learning difficulties (12.0 per cent)

  • Mental illnesses or nervous disorders (14.2 per cent)

  • Depression or anxiety (27.2 per cent).

Percentage of DDA disabled people in employment by main impairment, Q2 2011, UK

Percentage of DDA disabled people in employment by main impairment, Q2 2011, UK

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Although employment rates were highest for those with a skin condition, only 1.1 per cent of all DDA disabled people reported this as their main health problem. The most common conditions were related to the back or neck (13.4 per cent), the legs or feet (10.8 per cent), the heart or circulation (10.5 per cent) and the chest or breathing (10.3 per cent).

Looking at those who are DDA disabled and working, 11.5 per cent were employed in jobs requiring low skill. This was around the same percentage as all those working who were not disabled. Therefore those who are DDA disabled and working are just as likely as those who were not disabled to be working in the lowest skilled jobs in the UK.


Percentage of people employed in different skill groups of job, Q2 2011

Per cent

  High   Upper-middle   Lower-middle   Low
DDA disabled 24.3   24.7   39.5   11.5
Not disabled 26.8   27.9   34.3   10.9

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Wales and North East have highest % of disabled people

Looking solely at individuals aged 16 to 64, the age at which most people are likely to engage in the labour market, there were 7.1 million DDA disabled people in the UK in 2011. This equates to around 18.3 per cent of the total population aged 16 to 64. There were variations in the prevalence of individuals who were DDA disabled across the UK. Around 21.4 per cent of people aged 16 to 64 in both Wales and the North East of England were DDA disabled compared to 14.0 per cent in London.

Percentage of the population that are DDA disabled, Q2 2011

Percentage of the population that are DDA disabled, Q2 2011

Background notes

  1. People are aged 16 to 64.

  2. People who have a long-term disability which substantially limits their day-to-day activities are defined by the Disability Discrimination Act. From 1 October 2010, provisions in the Equality Act 2010 replaced the majority of provisions in the DDA. People who only report a work limiting disability but not a disability that limits their day to day activities are excluded from the analysis.

  3. A time series is not available as there was a change in the reporting behaviour of survey respondents at the start of 2010 related to a change in the wording of the survey questionnaire. It is believed that the change resulted in more accurate estimates of the numbers of people either with or without a disability/long-term health problem.

  4. A full description of health impairments are:

    • Problems or disabilities (including arthritis or rheumatism) connected with the... arms or hands
    • ...legs or feet
    • ...back or neck
    • Difficulty in seeing (while wearing spectacles or contact lenses)
    • Difficulty in hearing
    • A speech impediment
    • Severe disfigurement, skin condition or allergy
    • Chest or breathing problems, asthma, bronchitis
    • Heart, blood pressure or blood circulation problems
    • Stomach, liver kidney or digestive problems
    • Diabetes
    • Depression, bad nerves or anxiety
    • Epilepsy
    • Severe or specific learning difficulties (mental handicap)
    • Mental illness, or suffer from phobia, panics or other nervous disorders
    • Progressive illness not included elsewhere (e.g. cancer, multiple sclerosis, symptomatic HIV, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy)
    • Other health problems or disabilities 
  5. Occupations can be grouped by the skill level required according to the following guidelines:

    Low – This skill level equates to the competence acquired through compulsory education. Job-related competence involves knowledge of relevant health and safety regulations and may be acquired through a short period of training. Examples of occupations at this level include postal workers, hotel porters, cleaners and catering assistants.

    Lower-middle – This skill level covers occupations that require the same competence acquired through compulsory education, but involve a longer period of work-related training and experience. Occupations at this level include machine operation, driving, caring occupations, retailing, and clerical and secretarial occupations.

    Upper-middle – This skill level equates to competence acquired through post-compulsory education but not to degree level. Occupations found at this level include a variety of technical and trades occupations, and proprietors of small business. For the latter, significant work experience may be typical. Examples of occupations at this level include catering managers, building inspectors, nurses, police officers (sergeant and below), electricians and plumbers.

    High – This skill level is normally acquired through a degree or an equivalent period of work experience. Occupations at this level are generally termed ‘professional’ or managerial positions, and are found in corporate enterprises or governments. Examples include senior government officials, financial managers, scientists, engineers, medical doctors, teachers and accountants.

  6. Further official statistics on disabled people are available on the DWP website.

  7. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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