Labour market figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the disability employment gap, the difference between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in work between October to December 2015, remains unchanged on the previous year.
The number of disabled people in work between October to December 2015 increased by 152,000 on the same period the previous year, and the employment rate for disabled people increased 1.1% to 46.7%.
However, the gap between the employment rate of disabled people and the rest of the population remains stubbornly high at 33.6%, the same as in 2014.
The worrying figures expose the monumental challenge faced by the Government, who say they are committed to halving the disability employment gap.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability charity Scope, says: “Today’s employment figures show an increase in the number of disabled people in work. This is really positive news.
“However, a closer look shows there is still a huge gap between the employment rate of disabled people and the rest of the population.
“While overall unemployment is at its lowest ever level, disabled people are at risk of being left behind in the recovery.
“This is evidenced by the fact that the gap has remained static at around 30% for more than a decade.
“The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap.
“If this ambitious target and the drive for full employment are to be realised, the Government must invest in expert, tailored support for disabled people and create flexible, modern workplaces.
“The upcoming White Paper on health, disability and employment is an opportunity to reform the system and make it work for disabled people.”
There were 387,000 more people in full-time work, while the number of part-time workers also increased by 134,000.
Unemployment fell by 60,000 to 1.69 million, with the unemployment rate now standing at 5.1%.
Labour market statistics also show that there were 8.88 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive, those not working and not seeking or available to work. This is 88,000 fewer than for July to September 2015 and 172,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
However, wage growth remains sluggish. Average weekly earnings have risen by just 1.9% including bonuses and by 2.0% excluding bonuses.
Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “Today’s fall in unemployment is welcome but there are no signs the Tory pay crisis is going away.
“At this rate, after ten years of the Tories, the pay of working families will have risen at its lowest level in nearly a hundred years.
“To make matters worse, when low and middle income families most need in-work support, the Government is pulling that support away.
“By forcing people onto the cut-back version of Universal Credit, the Tories will make life even harder for workers across the country whose pay-packets are already stretched to breaking point.
“Ahead of next month’s Budget, Labour is calling on the Government to immediately reverse cuts to Universal Credit that will see over two million working families an average of £1,600 a year worse off.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “February is another record-breaking month with the employment rate now at the highest it has ever been and wages continuing to grow.
“At a time when we are seeing the number of workless households at its lowest ever, this is further proof that our economic and welfare reforms are delivering more security and providing opportunities that give families the best chance in life.”