Updated: Jul 21
Work is not solely about earning a paycheck; it holds numerous benefits for individuals, including improved health, well-being, social inclusion, and reduced reliance on government support. For people with disabilities, who often face socioeconomic challenges and social isolation, employment can be even more crucial. HCPA has supported many research businesses that indicate that part-time work is precious to individuals with disabilities, supporting their well-being and potentially reducing healthcare costs.
In Australia, employment rates among people with disabilities stand at 54%, compared to 84% for the broader population. Worryingly, the employment gap has widened over the past decade, with employment among people with disabilities decreasing by 3% while the rest of the population has seen a 23% increase. Despite substantial investments by federal and state governments in employment support programs, such as Disability Employment Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), many of these initiatives focus on securing full-time employment for individuals with disabilities. HCPA has supported many people with disabilities who have found meaningful work through disability employment services.
Based on research supported by WISE Employment, conversations with 25 Disability Employment Services clients shed light on the positive impact of part-time work on various aspects of well-being. Part-time employment builds confidence, facilitates better engagement with families and communities, enhances social networks, and improves financial stability. Part-time work is a viable option for individuals with capacity limitations or needing to balance family and medical appointments. It serves as a stepping stone towards full-time employment and empowers people with disabilities to regain independence and self-sufficiency.
Ensuring a successful transition to the workforce requires careful consideration of job matching. It is crucial to align individuals' skills and abilities with suitable positions that offer appropriate support and accommodations for their disabilities. If people with disabilities enter unsupportive work environments or roles that do not accommodate their needs, their mental health and overall well-being may be negatively affected. Thus, a tailored approach to job placement is essential to maximise the positive outcomes of employment.
The Numbers: Well-being and Healthcare Savings:
Examining client data from various sources, including WISE Employment and Personal Well-being Index questionnaires, researchers discovered that employed individuals with disabilities exhibit higher well-being scores than their unemployed counterparts. Notably, well-being scores were similar between those employed full-time and those employed part-time. However, those engaged in casual jobs demonstrated slightly lower well-being. Moreover, engagement in employment, particularly for individuals with disabilities, is associated with substantial mental health gains. The positive effects of work are more pronounced as individuals work more hours, with women in part-time employment experiencing notable benefits.
Additionally, integrated data from multiple sources revealed a gradual reduction in healthcare costs, including mental health services and prescriptions, as the hours worked increased. By extrapolating these findings to current Disability Employment Services participants and individuals on job active, researchers estimate that transitioning those not working into part-time positions could save approximately $62.5 million annually in healthcare and mental health services costs.
The research underscores the value of part-time work for enhancing the well-being of individuals with disabilities while yielding potential cost savings in healthcare. It is crucial to advocate for policy reforms to increase the number of people with disabilities employed part-time or full-time; current programs and services should move beyond rigid classifications of "working" versus "not working" and recognise the potential of part-time work to improve overall well-being. By revamping brokerage processes and offering incentives to employers, we can create a more inclusive employment landscape for people with disabilities.
Part-time work holds immense value for individuals with disabilities, providing numerous benefits and potentially reducing healthcare costs. Part-time employment is vital to promoting the well-being, social inclusion, and economic empowerment of people with disabilities. By reforming existing programs and services, fostering appropriate job matching, and embracing the potential of part-time work, we can create a more inclusive society that supports individuals with disabilities in their journey towards meaningful employment and enhanced quality of life.
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SOURCES | The Conversation ‘Part-time work is valuable to people with disability - but full time is more likely to attract government support’ |