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Access of people with disabilities to the labour market

Employment rate to be increased

SW – 06/2022

The European Council held a policy debate on the employment of persons with disabilities at its meeting on 16 June. One of the topics discussed was how to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities. The debate has focused on two points, in particular. Ministers discussed how to remove barriers to the employment of people with disabilities and how to take effective measures to promote their professional integration.

The Background Paper on which the debate is based refers to the incentives created by various Member States to promote the employment of people with disabilities. These include, for example, mandatory minimum quotas for employers in hiring people with disabilities, annual diversity plans with measurable targets and regular assessments, financial support for reasonable accommodation in the workplace, tax relief and financial incentives, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, and consideration in public tenders.

Inclusive labour markets and increasing the labour force participation of under-represented groups, such as people with disabilities, should contribute to achieving the European employment targets for 2030. The Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights envisages an employment rate of 78 per cent of the population aged between 20 and 64 by 2030.

The following factors are cited as causes for the still low employment rate of persons with disabilities:


  • inequalities in access to education and training, lower levels of education compared to the overall population,
  • employers' preconceptions about productivity,
  • real or perceived costs and information deficits regarding adequate precautions,
  • deficits in human resources management.


Improving the employment rate requires action at different levels, in particular promoting accessibility, adequate provision for individual needs, the acquisition of marketable skills, as well as investment in emergency services, inclusive and accessible learning frameworks, lifelong learning and linking the school cycle and labour market inclusion.

Background and next steps

About one fifth of the EU population (currently around 87 million people) is estimated to have some form of disability. People with disabilities, like everyone else, have the right to full participation in all areas of life. However, they still face many obstacles despite progress in some areas.

For example, only about half of people with disabilities (50.8 per cent) in the EU were in employment in 2021, compared to 75 per cent of people without disabilities. People with disabilities are more often at risk of poverty or social exclusion than people without disabilities (28.4 per cent compared to 18.4 per cent).

The integration of people with disabilities in the labour market is a core topic of the EU Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030. One of the flagship initiatives of the strategy is the so-called "Employment Package" which the European Commission will present later this year. In cooperation with the European Network of Public Employment Services, the social partners and organisations representing people with disabilities, it aims to improve their chances in the labour market.