Employment and disability in the European Union

Briefing 27-05-2020

Approximately one in six people in the European Union (EU) aged 15 and over lives with some kind of disability. Even if there has been an overall improvement in the employment situation of persons with disabilities in the EU (given the increase in employment rates), they still remain among the most disadvantaged groups as regards employment. This phenomenon considerably affects the EU's social integration ability and economic growth. Alongside and in support of Member States' policies, the EU has introduced a series of legal provisions, initiatives, actions and strategies to improve the employment situation of disabled people. In 2010, the EU signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is a legally binding international treaty. According to the CRPD, the right to work and employment is a fundamental right (Article 27). The main instrument supporting the CRPD's implementation in the EU is the European disability strategy 2010-2020. Its overall aim is to empower people with disabilities so that they can enjoy their full rights, participate in society and have equal access to employment as others. Since 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights has provided further impetus to the active social inclusion of people with disabilities. In relation to the European disability strategy 2010-2020, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester (established in 2010 as an annual cycle for economic, social and fiscal policy coordination), the EU supports a number of initiatives designed to assist disabled people as regards employment. These include: non-discrimination, workplace adaptations, public employment services, accessibility, financial incentives and EU funding. Since the early 1980s, the European Parliament has given priority to combating all forms of discrimination against disabled people, in particular, as regards employment. Academics and stakeholders share the view that tackling any kind of discrimination against, and fostering the active inclusion of, people with disabilities in the labour market are equally important for the EU's economy and society.