To what extent are women with disabilities disadvantaged? Do they have limited access to job opportunities?

ST/SW – 09/2017

These questions were the focus of a study from the EU Parliament. The aim of the study was to use existing data and information to assess how multiple discrimination of women with disabilities affects their participation in the labour market. In addition, the study analyses whether and how these disadvantages are addressed by legislation and policy guidelines at European and national level. The study also includes advice on implementation and guidance mechanisms. 

Findings of the study

The study concludes that there is not enough attention given to discrimination of women with disabilities in the workforce; this can be said for both policymakers as well as women’s rights movements and disability movements. In the past, measures have been taken to promote the rights of disabled persons or women. However, action has not been taken in both areas simultaneously. While this has resulted in some improvements for women with disabilities, targeted measures addressing both factors could lead to even greater progress. 


At national level, case studies show that the concept of multiple discrimination is predominantly outside of public and political discourse and remains mostly an area for research and scientific debate. In only a few countries (Spain, Italy and Germany) is multiple discrimination of women with disabilities slowly changing the legislative and policy framework and is explicitly mentioned as a policy objective. Associations are also increasingly taking up the issue, as well as networks such as the European Network of Women with Disabilities, founded in Berlin in 2007.  

Policy recommendations

The study concludes that the measures taken are insufficient, even though multiple discrimination of women with disabilities is increasingly being acknowledged in debate and in politics. Furthermore, there are concerns that cost-cutting measures will impede further improvements. Therefore, it is important that the issue be taken up by women and disability associations, as well as in research, in order to increase social and political awareness of the multiple discrimination facing women with disabilities and the necessity to increase the number of targeted measures.  


It is proposed that targeted measures be implemented at European and national level to improve the situation for women with disabilities. This especially applies to access to the labour market and health services, as well as social security, education and legal certainty. 


In its draft report dated on 13 July 2017, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) meanwhile discussed the implementation of the European Disability Strategy.