Persons with disabilities account for a large untapped talent pool in the Canadian labour market. In 2017, 3,727,920 Canadians between the ages of 25 and 64 identified as having a disability.1 However, only three in five (59%) of these individuals were employed. Of those who were not employed, nearly 645,000 (40%) had the potential for paid work but were unable to find suitable work.2 While there is significant evidence3 of benefits to companies from inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce, many individuals struggle to find a job and access meaningful employment opportunities that appropriately utilize their skillsets. Meaningful employment has been shown to give people purpose in life and increase mental well-being.4 Cross-sector collaboration is required in order to find solutions to help persons with disabilities find meaningful employment and foster an inclusive Canadian labour market.
Based on research conducted by MaRS with support from CIBC, three societal challenges and eight direct barriers were identified. These categories are complex and interconnected, discreetly impacting the individual based on disability, intersectionality and socioeconomic status.
Societal challenges are broader obstacles that are prevalent throughout one’s entire journey when in pursuit of meaningful employment. The societal challenges include:
Direct barriers present themselves at multiple stages of one’s employment journey and are not mutually exclusive. The direct barriers identified include:
This report provides details regarding the research approach and methodology, as well as an overview of the societal challenges and direct barriers identified that are hindering persons with disabilities in finding and maintaining meaningful employment.
1 Morris et al., ‘A demographic employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017’ (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2018)
2 Morris et al., ‘Demographic, employment and income profile’. Note: having ‘work potential’ is defined by Statistics Canada as persons with disability not currently working, not currently in school, not housebound and no preventions from working. They stress that it is not an attempt to measure an individual’s capacity or ability to work, but a way to examine how the labour market could change in a more inclusive market. For more, see StatsCan’s Annex A: Work Potential.
3 Jerdee, ‘What companies gain by including persons with disabilities’ (2019).
4 Bailey and Madden, ‘What makes work meaningful – or meaningless’ (2016).