Why invisible disability employment stats make things worse



Earlier this week CCS Disability Action addressed the issue of employment discrimination for people with disabilities in New Zealand. This is a pressing issue that we as a country are severely lagging behind in.

While other countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States collect quarterly data regarding the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, New Zealand does no such data collection. This shows that the lack of awareness about employment discrimination for those with disabilities starts at the most basic level given that this really should be standard practice.

David Matthews, CCS Disability Action Chief Executive says, “Disabled people are overrepresented on benefits and in unemployment. In 2011, 35 per cent of people on a main benefit claimed a disability allowance. Only 45 per cent of disabled people were in the labour force compared to 77 per cent of people without disabilities.”

In order to address the issue of employment discrimination, we need to understand why it occurs. People with disabilities who are physically and mentally able to be in the workforce certainly do not like being welfare dependent for obvious reasons – being financially independent is the key ingredient for having autonomy over your own life for groups of people who have to be dependent on other people for significant aspects of their life. Therefore these stats should indicate marginalization at a structural level, which is the foundational issue that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately we still live in a society where significant portions of employers think that people with disabilities are somehow less competent than the able-bodied.

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Mr Matthews then added, “Without accurate data, how do we know whether we are actually addressing the issue? When the government starts collecting regular data, I will know it is serious.” I agree with this completely. Collecting data is the most effective step the government can take to show that they are acknowledging the issue and collecting regular data is the best way to show how desperate the problem of employment discrimination for people with disabilities is in this country.

True and long-lasting inclusion of all sectors of our society occurs when the majority of the population bands together to make it happen. But it also happens when the people who have decision-making power are actually on our side.


  1. What are CCS and other disability advocacy organisations offering to change things, one must ask?

    We happen to have a market economy, which is largely operating on demand and supply, and as much as some hate to accept it, in this kind of socio-economic order, labour (jobs) are part of the equation.

    Employers are mostly privately owned and operated businesses, and a fair few state agencies, like the remaining SOEs, and certainly the new “mixed ownership model” enterprises, are also run along “efficiencies”, as they have to either compete with other players (that is the businesses), or have to keep their costs down.

    Unemployment in whatever form is seen as a “cost”, so naturally, apart from a small percentage of wanted unemployment (to keep wages and salaries down), the “market” and state have an interest in keeping as many employed as possible.

    Of course most disabled would love to work, but they face the dictate of the real socio-economic system they now live in, and that is again “cost” sensitive and “competitive”. Workers compete for jobs on a daily basis, to employers will, unless special “incentives” are given, look for the fittest and most “cost effective” workers.

    Once extra investment is needed to create a work place that offers a person with disability a chance to work same as others with no or lesser disabilities, then the employer will first of all see the extra cost as a disincentive. There are also very high risks associated with employing some disabled, for instance those with mental illnesses, that may at times – or more frequently and regularly – cause situations, where the person simply cannot be relied on, to work like a clockwork and to perform at required times. The cost of employing disabled may include extra training of other staff, and more. So that is why employers are hesitant to employ most disabled right from the start.

    I agree there must be better solutions to help more into employment, but what is being done? Is the government even starting to give employers incentives, by subsidising training, information sharing, by assisting them to adjust work-places? Are employers also held to account to be “social” and do their bit to hire disabled? And do disabled get the same treatment, decent enough pay to live off, and extra support when needed, if something does not work out?

    I see only a draconian welfare system, where more pressure seems to be put on disabled, to make efforts, to prove they are motivated and ready to work, MSD got a few hundred millions extra for extra case managers, outsourced placement service providers for mentally ill are being trialled now, where MSD and WINZ pay handsome head count fees for getting disabled into jobs.

    Yet I see little or NO extra health spend, NO proper awareness campaigns to inform employers and the wider public about needs and abilities of disabled. I see stricter work capability testing – like for the DWP under ATOS in the UK, all being mindful of “costs”, but I see too little that is genuinely constructive.

    It must be accepted that employment for disabled will only be achieved by “investing” extra and by working with the affected and their advocates, rather than put more pressure on people. Under this government I do not see the UN Convention on the Rights for Disabled, that New Zealand signed, to be honoured as it should.

    We could also perhaps look at bringing in a Universal Basic Income, taking pressures of many disabled, as WINZ appears to offer little “help”, apart from endlessly re-assessing even permanently sick or disabled, and making life difficult financially.

    To be considered also remains all this to be read here:


    Having hand-picked “experts” like Professor Mansel Aylward, WINZ Principal Health Advisor Dr David Bratt and others even question many musculo-skeletal and also mental health conditions, then talk about “illness belief” being behind too many illnesses, that just increases suspicions, lack of trust and witch hunting between WINZ and those dependent on support.

  2. For those that do not know what CCS Disability Action stands for the following link may assist with some extra information:


    Here their links to “rights” of disabled:

    Many rights stand on printed paper and are written into laws, codes and so forth, but that alone does not equate to laws and rights being honoured.

    What they do:


    “CCS Disability Action is an incorporated society and a registered charity, governed by a board and managed by a national management team.”

    “CCS Disability Action:
    Was founded in 1935 by Rotary to provide support to children with polio ..
    Is committed to including all people …” (see link for more)

    They operate various trusts, and they seem to be the type of organisation the government would like to have involved, it seems. But in the end they are a private – or non government – service provider, who can only operate by receiving donations, or government subsidies.

    Ultimately, unless government takes on more responsibility and honours what it “cheaply” talks about doing, all these kinds of efforts will just remain to be “drops in the bucket”, and at times even “bottom of the cliff” kinds of solutions.

    I am little convinced of the full sincerity and commitment of CCS and certain other “advocacy” services, as they are so dependent on government getting involved. They will never “bite” the hand that is likely to “feed them” at various stages.

  3. Tariana Turia is an absolutely useless Minister for Disability Issues. I will celebrate when she leaves us for good.
    I really wish anyone who works at winz unwell and will do my best to cause them pain when I can. They are low-life scum.
    Will any political party offer a support policy for us invalids and other impaired people? I don’t mean money, I mean basic decency.
    I should be allowed to use a f..ing toilet when required to visit winz every 3 months to full out the same B.S. forms.
    I shouldn’t be physically threatened by security thugs for giving them the evil eye when refused use of a toilet.
    I record all them and will use the recordings to personally attack/ cyberbully any staff at winz that I can, before I die.
    Sorry, a bit of topic. I enjoy your writings but easily get worked up about the treatment of ‘disabled’ in NZ.
    Paula Bennett is of course also a lifelong target I want vengence on.

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