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Disability Pay Gap and Poverty in the UK

Disability Pay Gap
Recently, more and more information has been coming to light on how employment and wage differ for people, especially for minorities such as women and people of color. However, one group of people has frequently experienced exclusion from the conversation: people with disabilities. On average in the U.K., disabled employees receive almost £2 per hour less than their coworkers without disabilities. Over the last couple of years, the disability pay gap has been widening. In 2014, employees with disabilities earned 11.7% less than non-disabled employees. In 2019, they earned 14.1% less.

The pay gap is significantly more apparent for women than men. From 1997-2014, the disability pay gap for men was 13%, whereas it was 7% for women. The pay gap also differs significantly for those with mental versus physical disabilities. Men with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety had a pay gap of 30%, whereas women suffering from the same mental illnesses had a pay gap of 10%. Men with learning disabilities experienced even higher pay gaps, making around 60% less than other workers without disabilities.

The Cause of This Pay Gap

Many factors influence the disability pay gap, from facing discrimination to impairments due to their disability. However, the most influential factor is that many people with disabilities are less likely to work full-time and year-round in nearly every occupation, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report. When factoring in the schedules and occupations of a worker with disabilities, the pay gap nearly disappeared. Similarly, accounting for sickness leave also significantly reduces the pay gap.

Despite this, people with disabilities still earn significantly less than the average non-disabled worker meaning they are more susceptible to falling into poverty. People living in poverty are also more likely to develop a disability, meaning their chance of employment is even lower. In fact, almost half of those living in poverty in the U.K. are people with disabilities.

The disability pay gap only exacerbates the poverty rate for those with disabilities, as they often have a higher cost of living due to extra health care and accommodations. In addition, many people with disabilities face higher levels of unemployment and poverty because they tend to be less educated. For example, in the U.S. one in five adults with disabilities has less than a high school education, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. Only 19% of disabled adults possess a college degree, compared with more than 35% of non-disabled adults. 

Organizations and Legislative Bills Assisting

Despite the tremendous hurdles that people with disabilities face, many organizations and legislative bills are seeking to assist people with disabilities.

  • In the U.K., the Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools, first introduced in 2016, is a program that provides career advice and assistance for young people who have a disability. Since then, it has partnered with more than 1,400 schools to provide career advice and guidance to young people with disabilities.
  • Introduced in 2017, the Personal Support Package offers employment support for people with disabilities that is delivered through the U.K. government.

In conclusion, those with disabilities face a tremendously higher rate of poverty, something that people often leave out of the discussion regarding global poverty. However, organizations and governments are making an effort to combat it and as they put more and more measures into place, the poverty rate is slowly reducing.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Unsplash