Can people with disabilities solve Ontario’s labour shortage?

Can people with disabilities solve Ontario’s labour shortage?

Can people with disabilities solve Ontario’s labour shortage? by Ingrid Muschta and Joe Dale

In this first part of a five-part series, experts from the Ontario Disability Employment Network explain why HR should tap this talent pool.

Research into the labour challenges facing Canada is extensive. Two clear demographic pressures emerge that impact the country’s labour force: the current aging workforce and the shortage of younger talent available to replace them. People with disabilities form an often overlooked talent pool which has proven to succeed when properly engaged.

According to Statistics Canada, close to 16% of Canadians self-identify as having a disability. That’s equal to the combined populations of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This makes people with disabilities the largest minority group in the country and one we can all join at any point in our lives due to illness or accident. In Ontario, 1 in 7 people has a disability. That’s almost 2 million Ontarians. By 2036, that number will rise to 1 in 5 as people age.

When we factor in family and loved ones 53% of the population is directly impacted by disability. Considering the size and scope of this demographic, it’s one business can’t afford to ignore, whether thinking about market share or when seeking innovative solutions to labour shortages.

In 2006, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities reported that in Ontario over 39 % of people with disabilities between the ages of 16 to 64 were not in the labour force.

This percentage doesn’t include those who have given up looking for work and never entered the labour force. If those people were included, this unemployment rate would rise significantly. Some experts suggest that the real number of people with disabilities who are not in the workforce could be as high as 70%.

People who have a disability are not only willing to work, they are prepared to meet the demands of the workplace with up to 40% holding post-secondary diplomas and degrees or trade certifications. Despite having post-secondary education, a person with a disability still finds it a challenge to break into the workforce.

This is a growing demographic with global impact. Globally, the disability market represents 1.3 billion people along with 2.3 billion family members, friends, caregivers and colleagues. Together, people with disabilities control over $8 trillion US in annual disposable income.

Whether you’re struggling to fill a labour gap or looking to expand your market reach and brand loyalty, these numbers can’t be ignored. There is a clear business case for engaging people who have a disability as a solution to the threat of workforce shortages in Canada’s future.
Business organizations who ignore this untapped labour market, a population with diverse talents and skills, will find themselves playing catch up to those employers who have adopted inclusive hiring practises and are experiencing significant boosts both in profitability and brand loyalty.

This series will explore how hiring people who have a disability is a value proposition for Ontario businesses across a spectrum of industries. It will highlight the benefits of inclusive hiring practices and will dispel the misconceptions and myths that frequently surround hiring people who have a disability. 

The report concludes with an action plan to assist businesses who are willing to consider a different approach to meeting their labour needs – businesses that are eager to build greater innovation and diversity and ensure a strong future for their business.

Ingrid Muschta is a diversity and inclusion specialist at Ontario Disability Employment Network. Joe Dale is the executive director of Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Related stories:
How one HR team is stamping out the stigma of disability
Study links employee health to organizational change

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