European Disability Forum Report on the right to work in Europe


Access to inclusive and quality education remains limited for many persons with disabilities significantly impacting their access to the labour market as a whole, as well as to more stable, better paying jobs. This is one of the conclusions of the recent European Disability Forum report, “The Right to Work: The employment situation of persons with disabilities in Europe” which analyses the latest data on the employment of persons with disabilities in the European Union, and explore the major barriers to employment, including the access to education and training and further transition to labour market.

Access to quality employment is still far from a reality for many persons with disabilities. Indeed, in the EU, only 51% of persons with disabilities are employed, compared to 76% of persons without disabilities. The discriminations faced upon entry on the labour market are multiplied for women, young people and persons with high support needs. Moreover, when they are employed, persons with disabilities do not have the same quality of work, due to unequal pay, temporary or part-time work, and fewer opportunities to work in high-skill jobs. Regarding access to different sectors, women with and without disabilities are overrepresented in education, health care and social work activities (33% of women with disabilities in employment work in these occupations, compared to just 10% of men with disabilities).

Accessibility to mainstream education is an issue in many countries. The report’s findings show that more than twice as many students with disabilities leave school early, in comparison to those without disabilities. Additionally, only 32.5% of individuals with disabilities completed tertiary education in 2019 compared to 43.6% of those without disabilities. Education and vocational training often fail to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and are not always relevant to the labour market. A significant number of young people with disabilities are educated in segregated settings, resulting in a lack of formal qualifications for many jobs. The limited access to inclusive and quality education for persons with disabilities often lead to unemployment, limited future employment prospects or work in sheltered workshops.

Education trade unions have been highlighting for years that challenges such as under-representation of people with disabilities in the teaching profession, absence of appropriate accommodation and psychological support in the workplace, as well as increased privatisation and the lack of public funds, inadequate infrastructure, shortage of teachers and support staff are still hindering the quality of life of people with disabilities and undermining inclusion and equality in education in many European countries. ETUCE and its member organisations promote a new positive approach regarding the concept of disability and special needs in education and advocate to include this topic in social dialogue in education. a new positive approach regarding the concept of disability and special needs in education and advocate to include this topic in social dialogue in education.

To read ETUCE’s demands on inclusion of persons with disabilities in the education sector, please see the ETUCE Statement on the European Strategy for the Rights of Persons with disabilities and the ETUCE Action Plan on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Strategy for Implementation.