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Type of disability greatly affects the chances of working

Released: 02 December 2011 Download PDF

Disabled peoples’ chances of being in work vary significantly depending on the type of disability, according to new analysis released today by the Office for National Statistics in advance of tomorrow’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Employment rates in April-June 2011 for people who report themselves with a disability that limits their day-to-day activities vary from 72 per cent for those with skin conditions, disfigurements or allergies to 12 per cent for those with severe learning difficulties. Overall, 46 per cent of disabled people were in work, compared with an employment rate of 76 per cent for those without a disability.

The conditions with the next highest rates of employment after skin conditions were diabetes (62 per cent) and heart, blood pressure or circulatory problems (58 per cent). The conditions with the next lowest employment rates after severe learning difficulties were mental illnesses or nervous disorders (14 per cent) and depression or anxiety (27 per cent).

Around 11 per cent of employed disabled people were in jobs requiring low skill, the same percentage as all those working who were not disabled. However, the percentage of disabled workers who were in jobs needing high or upper-middle skills was slightly lower than for non-disabled workers – 49 per cent compared with 55 per cent.

The most commonly reported main conditions were related to the back or neck, with 13 per cent of disabled people reporting this, those related to legs or feet (11 per cent), the heart or circulation (11 per cent) and the chest or breathing (10 per cent). In all, 7.1 million people aged 16 to 64, or 18 per cent of the population of that age, were disabled on the DDA basis. However, there were regional variations, with 21 per cent of those in both the North East and in Wales being disabled compared with 14 per cent in London. 

A short video explaining this story using graphical animations and commentary is available on the ONS Youtube channel.

Background notes

  1. There is a report on the ONS website at

  2. This analysis looks solely at people aged 16 to 64. The definition used is a self-reported disability that limits respondents’ day-to-day activities.
  3. 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; however it means that a time series is not available.
  4. Follow us on and on the ONS Youtube channel at
  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.
  6. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
    © Crown copyright 2011.


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Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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