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Disability prevalence and disability-related employment gaps in the UK 1998–2012: Different trends in different surveys?

Ben Baumberg Geiger, Melanie Jones and Victoria Wass

Social Science & Medicine, 2015, vol. 141, issue C, 72-81

Abstract: The persistently low employment rate among disabled individuals has been an enduring concern of governments across developed countries and has been the subject of a succession of policy initiatives, including labour market activation programmes, equality laws and welfare reform. A key indicator of progress is the trend in the disability-related employment gap, the percentage point difference between the employment rate for disabled and non-disabled individuals. Confusingly for the UK, studies undertaken between 1998 and 2012 have simultaneously reported both a widening and a narrowing of the gap. The source of the discrepancy can be found in the choice of survey, the General Household Survey (GHS) or the Labour Force Survey (LFS), although both use a common conception of disability and collect self-reported information from a random sample of households. The literature has analysed these surveys separately from each other and ignored inter-survey differences in findings. The Health Survey for England (HSE), a third national household survey, replicates the GHS questions on disability but has had limited use in this context. This empirical study compares the trends in disability prevalence and the disability-related employment gap across the three surveys using a three-stage harmonisation process. The negative relationship between the prevalence of disability and the employment gap found in cross-section inter-survey comparisons prompts an initial focus on differences in the definition of disability as an explanation of the discrepancy. This is broadened to include differences in survey methods and sample composition. Differences in the trend in disability prevalence and the employment gap remain following harmonisation for definition, survey method and sample composition. It is the LFS, the main policy-influencing and policy-assessment survey, which generates outlying results. As such, we cannot be confident that the disability-related employment gap has narrowed in the UK since 1998.

Keywords: UK; Disability; Employment disadvantage; General Household Survey; Health Survey for England; Labour Force Survey (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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