ISER Working Paper Series 2011-03
Trends in the employment of disabled people in Britain
19 Jan 2011
Survey data can be used to measure the extent of employment disadvantage experienced by disabled people at any point in time. Administrative statistics showed a sharp increase in the number of people claiming incapacity benefits during the 1970s, -80s and early -90s, though the numbers have levelled off since then. This paper aims to bridge the gap between these two approaches, using survey data to plot trends over time in the prevalence of disability, and in the employment rates of disabled people, in a way which is independent of, but comparable with, benefit statistics. The research is mainly based on General Household Survey data across the period 1974 to 2005. Much of the analysis is based on a loose definition of disability (limiting long-standing illness) but this is effectively complemented by more detailed data on health conditions available in some GHS years. The research confirms that both the prevalence of reported disability, and the extent of economic disadvantage faced by disabled people, increased over the period analysed, but it is difficult to link the timing of the trends to changes in either national unemployment rates or in social security policy.