The face of disability in Canada is female, older and poor.
That is the upshot of sociological data as Canada marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
According to Statistics Canada, 22 per cent of the Canadian population above the age of 15 – about 6.2 million individuals – had one or more disabilities in 2017, with women more likely to have a disability than men.
The figures appear as part of the Canadian Survey on Disability Reports released in November 2018. The report finds that the prevalence of disability increases with age from 13 per cent for those aged 15 to 24 years to 47 per cent for those aged 75 years and over. Disability also varies with age. While Disabilities related to pain, flexibility, mobility, and mental health were the most common disability types, mental health-related disabilities prevail among youth aged 15 to 24 years.
Disability also impacts employment and earnings. The report shows that individuals with disabilities were less likely to be employed (59 per cent) than those without disabilities (80 per cent). Individuals with disabilities, in other words, confront an immediate disadvantage when seeking employment. Generally, the more severe the disability, the lower the likelihood of employment. Among individuals aged 25 to 64 years, 76 per cent of those with mild disabilities worked, compared to 31 per cent of those with very severe disabilities. And once they have found employment, socioeconomic status depends on the nature of their disability and their gender.
Persons aged 25 to 64 with more severe disabilities (28 per per cent) were more likely to be living in poverty than their counterparts without disabilities (10 per cent) or with milder disabilities (14 per cent). A break down shows that lone parents and those living alone were the most likely to be living in poverty among any type of household living arrangements.
Since eight in 10 lone parents were women, the high risk of living in poverty in this group disproportionately affected women, the report notes. The report also suggests that it does not have to be. Among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed and not currently in school, two in five (39 per cent) had potential to work, but are not.
This represents nearly 645,000 individuals with disabilities, who could be part of the workforce, only to see their potential wasted.
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