A tale of two commitments
“we will aim to halve the disability employment gap: we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people who can and want to be in work find employment.” (Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, p19)
In 2017 the target was changed and is now expressed as an increase in the employment of disabled people by 1 million by 2027 (Commitment 2).
“We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years.” (Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.57)
The different targets in each commitment have supported conflicting claims on progress ever since.
Progress on Commitment 1 (halving the disability employment gap)
According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a large nationally representative household survey, the disability employment gap was 33.1 percentage points in June 2013, 34.5 percentage points at the time it was made the subject of Commitment 1 (July 2015) and 31.4 percentage points at the current data end point (June 2017). The disability employment gap which would meet the commitment is between 16 and 17 percentage points. Progress at an average of 0.42 percentage points per year has been positive but much too small to meet Commitment 1.
Figure 1 The Disability Employment Gap 2013-2017
Source: ONS, Table A08, quarterly LFS, GSS harmonised standard definition of disability.
Progress on Commitment 2 (1 million more disabled people into employment.
The employment of disabled people, again measured in the LFS between 2013 and 2017, increased by 596,000 (see Figure 2), an average increase of about 140,000 per year. This growth, if projected forward, is well above what would be needed to fulfil Commitment 2.
Figure 2 The number of disabled people in employment (thousands) 2013-2017
Source: See Figure 1 above.
Which Commitment is best?
Disability disadvantage is a relative concept which is best measured by a relative measure, such as the disability employment gap. The disability employment gap is the original target measure, it is the top line indicator recommended in the Black Review (2008) and it is the one which best captures the ambition to promote equality for disabled people. It is the commitment to which the Government should be held to account.
A more detailed analysis is available at:
Wass, V. and Jones, M. (2017) A Tales of Two Commitments: Tracking Progress on Disability and Employment.