Future-proofing young Canadians with disabilities for the changing labour market

Reasons for the study

Increased exposure to precarious work, as well as growing employment in the gig and sharing economies, poses new challenges for young people seeking sustainable employment. These challenges are exacerbated among young people living with disabilities who are persistently excluded from the labour market.

Statistics Canada shows the employment rate of youth (18-24 years of age) living with a disability stands at 32 per cent, and that of young adults (25-35 years of age) at 54 per cent. These percentages are significantly lower than those of their counterparts who are not living with a disability: 52 and 82 per cent, respectively. Young people with disabilities who are employed are more likely to report fewer work hours, lower income, more lost productivity and greater barriers to career advancement than their peers without disabilities. Further, young females with disabilities, while more likely to be employed than young males with disabilities, earn less income than young males with disabilities, highlighting labour market segregation.

There is a critical need to ensure that young people with disabilities are able to meet the challenges of a changing labour market and take advantage of potential opportunities. There is also a need for research to inform the design of future-proofing strategies that can be implemented in the present to minimize the shocks and stresses of the changing labour market on young people with disabilities.

This project aims to fill these needs. The project is funded by a grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund administered by Canada’s Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat.

Objectives of the study

  • To undertake a program of research that takes a transdisciplinary approach towards addressing the future of work and examining how changes in work may positively and negatively affect young people with disabilities

Anticipated results/impact

Findings will inform new research directions and future-proofing strategies that are sex/gender-sensitive and support early and long-term work participation. The research will be of interest to researchers, policy-makers, employers, young adults with disabilities and their families, clinicians and vocational rehabilitation professionals.

Related scientific publications

IWH Speaker Series presentations

Project status


Research team

Participating organizations

BC Children’s Hospital
Ontario College of Art and Design
Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
University of British Columbia
University of California – Berkeley
University of Groningen

Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work
City of Toronto – Civic Innovation Office
Education at Work Ontario
Government of Canada – Employment and Social Development Canada
The Knowledge Society

Funded by

Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada)