The disability employment gap in brazilian labor market

dos Santos, Luciana Alves; Fernandes, Marcus Vinicius Morais (2018). 'The disability employment gap in Brazilian labor market' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


During the last few decades in Brazil, a great evolution has occurred in the social movement that concerns the rights of people with disability. This movement aims to integrate this group of people into society, allowing equal access to education and the labor market [1]. This movement can also be observed at the international level, as in 2015 the ILO – International Labor Organization, launched a strategic 2014/2017 inclusion plan [2], which is based on: non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, respect for disability as part of human diversity, gender equality and involvement of persons with disabilities through their representative organizations. 

According to the Washigton Group on Disability Statistics [3] people with disabilty are defined as those who are at more risk than the general population in suffering from limitations in performing specific tasks (activities) or restrictions on their social activities. This group includes people experiencing difficulties in one or more of the six major areas (seeing, hearing, walking, cogniotion, self care and communication). Disability involves an interaction between a person´s functional status with the physical, cultural and political environments. If the living environment is designed for the full range of human functioning and incorporates appropriate accommodations and support mechanisms, people with functional limitations would not be "disabled" as they could participate fully in society.

It is known that the accomplishment of work activities brings to the person with disability a new perspective of life, and contributes to their rehabilitation. A Brazilian law of 1991, nº 8213/1991, established that every company in the national territory with 100 or more employees must have at least 2% of its workforce disabled people. However, despite this law, the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market is still a challenge. According to the ILO, people with disabilities are still less likely to be employed than non-disabled persons. They are also more likely to earn lower wages than non-disabled persons.

This article aims to analyze the current state of participation of people with disabilities in the Brazilian labor market from the gaps between people with and without disabilities.

In 2013, IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, conducted the PNS - Pesquisa Nacional de Saúde or National Health Survey, which, among several other subjects, investigates the characteristics of people with disabilities and the labor market. The PNS 2013 [4] will be the data source for this paper.

By 2013, there were approximately 160 million persons aged 14 years and over in Brazil. Among them were 6.7 million persons with disability (4.2%). Among the persons with disability, an estimated 56.4% were male; 42.1% were between 30 and 59 years old and 44.19% were 60 years and over. More than 60% of the persons with disability had obtained only the first level of education (no education and incomplete primary) while among those without disability this proportion was less than 40%. On the other hand, the proportion of people without disability and with bachelor degree is more than a double that of those with disability.

Regarding key indicators of the labor market, the labor force participation for persons with disability was 26.8% while for people without disabilities this proportion was 63%. The proportion of persons with disability that were employed was 25.7% and for persons without disability 59.3%.

The results presented clearly show that there is in the brazilian labor Market an inequality of oportunities between people with and without disabilities.  In this way, understanding the factors that interfere in the probability of disable person being employed in Brazil is utmost important. In order to estimate this probability, a logistic regression model was used with disability, age categories, educational level and level of limitation as predictor variables. A similar model was presented in the 2015 report, from Eurostat, regarding employment of disabled people [5].

As the main results obtained, we have that disability has a significant negative effect on employment. This effect is greater for male than for females. A disabled middle aged (30 years to 59 years) man has a decrease of 72.4% in the odds of being employed when compared to a non-disabled man. For females, this decrease is 57.7%. We also can notice that those with intense limitation in their activities have a strongly significant decrease in the probability of being employed. 

These results demonstrate that despite the existence of a law for inclusion of persons with disability in the labor market, in practice this is still far from the reality. The disability employment gap for the labor force participation (36.2%) is greater than the actual employment rate for those with disability (26.8%) and higher than then gap observed in other countries. A similar study in Canada [6] has shown that the disability employment gap in the labor force was 26.7%, and for the block of countries in the European Union [4] this gap was 20.2%. Therefore, the promotion of surveys and the elaboration of studies that direct the public policies to the problem faced by people with disabilities in Brazil are essential for the reversal of this scenario.

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