According to a new YouGov survey commissioned by the social enterprise Jigsaw, Australian middle managers and HR professionals were found to be dissatisfied with the $1bn-a-year disability employment services program (Des), which pays private providers to place job seekers into work. 50% of them have also never hired or worked with a person with a disability.
When asked in a separate question how they hired people with a disability, nearly one in ten (8%) who said they hadn’t also added that they weren’t open to doing so in the future. Among those who said their company had hired someone with a disability, 40% said they’d used internal recruitment to hire someone with a disability, while 26% used an external recruitment agency. A further 21% were connected through a Disability Employment Services provider.
As reported in The Guardian, the disability royal commission heard only 53.4% (1 million) of working-age people with disability participated in the labour force last year. Disability employment rates have remained stagnant in Australia for decades. They are well below the OECD average, prompting the former disability discrimination commissioner, Graeme Innes, to label companies' efforts in employing people with disability as “abysmal”.
The royal commission heard last year that at 10 major companies that reported figures to the inquiry – and which collectively employ more than 341,000 people – there was an average of 1% of employees who had a disability. However, about 18% of Australians have a disability. In the public service, people with disability make up 4% of the workforce, despite a goal of 7% between 2020 and 2025. Data shows people with disability are also much more likely to live in poverty, according to the Australian Council of Social Service, primarily due to sub-poverty line welfare benefits. The YouGov survey also found that 91% of the managers who’d used the Des program faced challenges.
This report comes out at an opportune time as the Australian government urges businesses ahead of its upcoming jobs summit to employ people with disability to meet labour force shortages. Amanda Rishworth, the Social Services Minister, said that the government was looking at ways to “improve employment outcomes for people with disability”.
“I intend on hosting a disability employment roundtable in addition to the jobs summit to centre our focus in this space,” she said. “There is an amazing, skilled workforce that is sadly underutilised. Hiring a person with disability makes good business sense and is good for the nation.”