People with disabilities in Canada consistently report working in lower quality jobs than people without disabilities

Institute for Work & Health study the most detailed yet looking at differences in employment quality among persons with and without disabilities

April 12, 2023 (Toronto, Ont.) — People with disabilities in Canada are not only less likely than people without disabilities to find work. When they do, they are also more likely to find themselves in lower quality jobs.

That’s according to a study published online today in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation (doi: 10.1007/s10926-023-10113-7). Led by IWH Associate Scientist Dr. Faraz Vahid Shahidi, the study provides the most comprehensive picture yet of employment quality for persons with disabilities in Canada.

The study found people with disabilities were significantly more likely to report temporary and part-time employment, job and income insecurity, gig work, wage theft (i.e. unpaid wages), job lock (i.e. stuck in a job) and skill mismatch. They were also significantly less likely to report flexible work schedules, training opportunities and positive safety climates.

Simply put, participation in the workforce does not in and of itself guarantee inclusion—at least not in the form of high-quality employment, says Shahidi. Our findings suggest there is still a long way to go for the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market, and this has implications for workplace practices and government policy in the areas of disability and employment.

Based on a survey of about 2,800 workers, of which roughly one-third had a physical and/or mental health disability, Shahidi and his team examined how people with and without disabilities differed across 16 factors related to quality of work. The team then found patterns among these 16 factors to identify four categories of employment quality. People with disabilities were two and a half times more likely than people without disabilities to hold jobs in the lowest quality category— labelled “precarious” (insecure and unrewarding)—than they were to hold jobs in the highest quality category—labelled “standard” (secure and rewarding).

We need to better distinguish between employment status (that is, having any job) and employment quality (that is, having a good-quality job) when it comes to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, says Shahidi. Beyond encouraging greater attachment to the labour market, our findings emphasize the importance of job security, wages, flexible work arrangements, job fit and training opportunities as particular areas in need of improvement when it comes to the job quality of persons with disabilities.

To request an interview with Dr. Shahidi, please contact:

Cindy Moser
Director, Communications
Institute for Work & Health
705-872-1939 (text)

Uyen Vu
Manager, Communications
Institute for Work & Health
613-979-7742 (text)

About the Institute for Work & Health

IWH is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that conducts and mobilizes research to support policy-makers, employers and workers in creating healthy, safe and inclusive work environments. The Institute provides practical and relevant findings and evidence-based products on the inter-relationships between work and health from worker, workplace and systems perspectives.

Media contacts

Uyen Vu
Communications Manager
Institute for Work & Health
613-979-7742 (cell)

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