This month Australia’s unemployment rate dropped to 5%, the lowest it has been in over four years.
This positive statistic could be a sign of relief for many Australians of working age, but for the 1 in 5 Australians who have some form of disability the statistics don’t lean as far in their favour.
New research commissioned by the Australian Government shows that employers attitudes towards people with disability in the world place are more positive than they are negative.
Although study’s show that business are trying to be more inclusive in their hiring of people with a disability, the employment statistics are not following through.
According to the Australian Network on Disability, people with a disability aged 15 – 24 years are 10 times more likely to experience discrimination than those aged 65 years and over, in nearly half of those instances the source of this discrimination is the employer.
This discrimination is captured in the low level of employment within the disabled community.
Australians with a disability are significantly under-represented in the labour market, out of the 2.1 million people aged between 15 and 65 who identify as having a disability only 53.4% of them are employed or actively seeking work, this is compared to 83% of the general population.
There are a range of complex factors that underlie this statistic, such as ability and personal preference that explain why labour force participation is low.
But for those who can work and want to, the biggest hurdle they have to face in their search for employment is their employer’s attitudes.
Over the coming weeks many students across the nation will be finishing up their university degrees ready to face the realities of today’s jobs market.
But for a graduate with a disability the wait between graduation and gaining a full-time job in their chosen career takes 56.2% longer than other graduates.
29-year-old post graduate psychology student Caroline Horvat says despite having found part time work in retail, she is not confident about job prospects from her university course.
“It’s tough for everyone, I’m worried if people will judge me because of the way I talk and that will make it harder to get a job”.
Caroline has been partially deaf since she was a child, she currently works as a retail assistant for a large office supplies store.
She says that her hearing impairment doesn’t affect her ability to do her current job and is happy with the way co-workers and management handle diversity.
“I am always happy to come to work, no one gets special treatment, you just get judged on how well you do your job.”
According to the research there is a correlation between large business and corporations and attitudes towards employing people with a disability.
Larger businesses were more likely to report openness towards employing people with disabilities, express more positive attitudes and follow through by employing those people.
This is due to the larger capacity of human resources teams to educate and eliminate and barriers towards employing peoples with a disability.
May of the variables revolved around education and awareness of the support available to business who hire peoples with a disability or of the benefits of having them as part of the team.
Only a few businesses agreed that a subsidy would influence their decision to hire someone with a disability, leaving the remaining 74% – 81% either uncertain or unconvinced that a wage subsidy would influence them in this way.
The benefits to hiring people with a disability were widely recognised with many employers acknowledging that hiring someone with a disability can be good for business.
Loyalty and positive work attitude were two of the stand out qualities employers perceived of people with a disability.
76% of medium size business employers thought that people with a disability were loyal and 69% for those in bigger businesses.
Both also showed a positive skew when asked if they agree with the statement that employees with disabilities have good work attitudes.
With overall attitudes towards hiring people with a disability showing positive, it’s hard to understand why the rate of employment is so low.
The study put it down to the lack of awareness and resources available to business owners around the benefits and support provided to business who hire people with a disability.
Larger businesses were more likely to have positive attitudes towards hiring people with a disability, this is put down to the resources and policies in place that prevent bias in within the hiring process.
Attitudes are one thing and actions are another, despite many business being open to employing people with a disability they still have a significantly lower employment rate to the general population.