Canadians with disabilities are already a large part of the working age population and will increase in importance as the population ages, says a new report by TD Economics.
Yet labour market outcomes for these individuals continues to lag. Even moderate success in narrowing gaps between people with disabilities (PWD) and the general population could provide an economic boost of more than $50 billion, said the Canadians with Disabilities: Seizing the Opportunity report.
“For employers, the case for becoming leaders in making workplaces more accessible is clear: generating a competitive edge in the growing war for talent,” it said.
“Policies that can help close the labour market gap include a focus on enhancing educational outcomes of PWD and those that help build awareness among employers of the benefits of improved workplace accommodation strategies. Furthermore, development of single points of contact to simplify and improve the use of public resources to support PWD would represent a significant step forward.”
The report said that one in five Canadians reported living with a disability in 2017, or nearly 6.2 million individuals and this figure is set to rise to one in four over the next two decades, fuelled by aging. At the same time, labour force outcomes for these individuals are significantly worse than for the general population.
“This group of Canadians represents a massive untapped economic opportunity. Even moderate progress in narrowing the labour market gap for people with disabilities (PWD) could provide a boost to real GDP of roughly $50 billion, and add nearly 450k net new jobs over the coming decade relative to business as usual levels, with positive knock-on effects to consumer spending and government tax revenues,” said TD Economics.
“Despite the growing market case for knocking down workplace barriers for PWD, many companies in Canada continue to lag in implementing disability recruitment and retention strategies. Quite simply, lagging firms will see themselves at a growing disadvantage over the medium-to-longer term as aging impacts on the workforce intensify: as we get older, we’re more likely to report a disability.
“But governments also need to step up their game. We suggest three key areas of focus: the development of single points of contact for Canadians with disabilities to simplify access to available resources, improving educational outcomes, including the transitions into and out of post-secondary studies, and strengthening support of workplace adaptation and improved employer awareness. In both the war for talent and the fight against population aging, Canadians with disabilities may, with a few tweaks to policy and ways of doing business, be the secret weapon.”