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Disabled employees earn nearly $200 a week less than non-disabled employees

Key points

  • Disabled people with wage or salary income earn, on average, $4.61 per hour less from this source than non-disabled people.
  • Disabled people are more likely than non-disabled people to be self-employed.
  • On average, disabled people have longer job tenure than non-disabled people.

Lower hourly wages and fewer weekly hours worked in the June 2017 quarter meant disabled wage-and-salary earners earned $196 less a week than non-disabled employees, Stats NZ said today.

Disabled people are those who have at least a lot of difficulty seeing or hearing (even with glasses or hearing aids), walking or climbing stairs, remembering or concentrating, self-care, or communicating.

For those who earned a wage or salary in the June 2017 quarter, the average hourly income for disabled people was $26.40, compared with $31.01 for non-disabled people.

Disabled people were more likely than non-disabled people to work part-time. Of employed disabled people, 33.7 percent worked part-time, compared with 21.1 percent of non-disabled people. On average, disabled people worked 33.5 usual hours per week – 4.1 hours per week fewer than non-disabled people.

“This combination of lower hourly income and fewer weekly hours meant the average weekly wage and salary income for disabled people was $911, compared with $1,107 for non-disabled people,” labour and income statistics manager Sean Broughton said.

Self-employment higher for disabled people

Disabled people had a higher rate of self-employment in their main job (with or without employees) – 23.2 percent, compared with 17.4 percent for non-disabled people.

Note: Error bars represent variability in estimates

Employment of disabled people by industry and occupation

The most common industry for disabled people to work in was the retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry (14.0 percent), followed by the health care and social assistance industry (11.9 percent).

A smaller proportion of disabled people (9.2 percent) worked in the professional, scientific, technical, administrative, and support services industry than that of non-disabled people (12.6 percent).

Large proportions of disabled workers were employed in industries with significant numbers of manual and/or low-skilled workers, including: construction (11.6 percent), manufacturing (8.9 percent), and agriculture, forestry, and fishing (8.6 percent).

“The high proportion of disabled workers in manual occupations may seem unexpected,“ Sean Broughton said. “However, many disabled workers do not have impairments that restrict their capacity for physical work, and not all manual jobs involve heavy physical work. People who work in manual jobs are also more at risk of workplace accidents or injuries, which may result in disability.”

The occupational profile of disabled workers was reflected in their distribution across industries and high proportion of self-employment. The most common occupation for disabled people was manager (21.8 percent), an occupation that includes those who are self-employed and is common in the agriculture and construction industries.

Employment by age group

The employment rate for all disabled people aged over 15 years was 22.4 percent. However, it rose to 39.3 percent for the 15–64 year age group.

Those aged over 65 years tend not to be in the labour force due to retirement, and disability is more prevalent in this older age group.


Note: Error bars represent variability in estimates

Employed disabled people stayed longer in their jobs, on average, than non-disabled people. This may also be related to the higher prevalence of disability in older age groups. Disabled people had an average job tenure of just over ten years, compared with seven years for non-disabled people.

More information

In the June 2017 quarter, we began collecting data in the Household Labour Force Survey for people’s disability status. Doing this will allow us to report on different labour market outcomes for disabled people and non-disabled people in the June quarter each year.

See Labour Market Statistics (Disability): June 2017 quarter for more data.

For more information on labour market outcomes for disabled people see:

Read Improving New Zealand disability data for more on how we are publishing new data about disabled people.


For media enquiries contact: Sean Broughton, Wellington 04 931 4755,
Authorised by Liz MacPherson, Government Statistician, 8 September 2017

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