How the intersection of gender and dis-ability impacts on work and income

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Abstract

The UK Government (2021a) recently calculated that 14 million people in the UK are disabled. That’s around 21% of the population, a figure that has steadily increased from 18% a decade ago. This matters because there are substantial differences in life outcomes for disabled people. There is a 50% difference in household income between disabled and non-disabled people, and the income gap is growing (Kim et al 2019). The employment rate for working age disabled people is just over 50% (Kim et al 2020), 28 percentage points below that for non-disabled people (ONS 2021). However, in attempting to tackle what the Prime Minister called a “gaping chasm” of employment, caution must be taken not to assume that a reduction in the ‘employment gap’ (see UK Government 2021a) would mean a rise in economic well-being. Disabled women in particular are more likely to be in part-time, junior, insecure jobs than disabled men and non-disabled men and women (Kim et al 2020), so even if they have gained employment, they may continue to be marginalized by job insecurity and low income, especially in light of the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Importantly, the employment status of disabled people should not be viewed as static. For example, mental health conditions and long-term pain can mean that people move in, out and back into work, or change the hours they work, over time. Though changing dis-ability trajectories are acknowledged to an extent in Government policy – as controversial ongoing capability assessments illustrate – these assessments, and negative portrayals of dis-ability in the media (Quarmby 2014), have contributed to conceptualizations of dis-ability claimants as undeserving ‘benefit scroungers’. Better understanding of how dis-ability, unemployment and economic (dis)advantage interlink over time is needed to inform both policy and public understanding. Our recent research shows that dis-ability related employment and income trajectories contrast with the image portrayed in the media, and like our previous research we find that such hardship disproportionately impacts on women.

In order for policies which aim to improve the position of women and disabled people to become more effective, a more nuanced understanding of the intersection of dis-ability, gender, employment and income must be used to inform policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2021
EventLabour Party Conference 2021 - UK, Brighton
Duration: 25 Sep 202130 Sep 2021

Conference

ConferenceLabour Party Conference 2021
CityBrighton
Period25/09/2130/09/21

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