Disability and Gender Gaps. The difficult situation of women with disabilities in the labour market

Disability and Gender Gaps. The difficult situation of women with disabilities in the labour market

The right to equal pay between women and men, for equal work or work of equal value, is one of the European Union’s (EU) principles enshrined in its Treaties. While equal access to employment has improved over the years, the labour and pay gaps remain a reality in the EU.

Data shows that persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination in employment, whether it relates to access to employment or equal pay for equal work. People with disabilities are less likely to be full-time employees. They have fewer employment opportunities and there are numerous situations where there is no respect for their rights and/or accommodation needs.

What is the situation of women with disabilities in the labour market?

Even though women with disabilities constitute 25.9% of the total population of women in the EU and 60% of the overall population of over 100 million persons with disabilities they continue to face multiple and intersectional discrimination in all areas of life, including socio-economic disadvantages, low rates of employment, and high rates of poverty.

EU figures indicate that:

  • About 49% of women with disabilities, aged 20-64, are employed compared to 53.9% of men with disabilities of the same age group.
  • When looking at full-time employment, only 20% of women with disabilities are in full-time employment, compared to 29% of men with disabilities, 48% of women without disabilities, and 64% of men without disabilities.

Thus, the status of women and girls with disabilities is not only worse than that of women without disabilities, but also worse than that of their male peers.

The pay gap and the reality for women with disabilities

If there is a significant disparity in access to employment, there are also notable differences in income capacity.

Data from the Gender Equality Index 2021 expressed in the purchasing power standard (PPS) shows that the EU average mean equivalised net income was of 16.822 PPS per year for women with disabilities compared to 17,746 PPS for men with disabilities, 20.100 PPS for women without disabilities, and 20,935 PPS for men without disabilities. Lower financial resources and in-work poverty are thus also a reality for many women with disabilities in full or part-time employment.

Thus, the financial resources of women with disabilities are lower than those of men with disabilities and women without disabilities.

Barriers and discrimination

Women with disabilities face pay inequalities due to stereotypes and biases based on their gender and disability.

Among the many barriers, the causes behind employment and pay gaps are multi-faceted:

  • Lower education and training levels;
  • Stigma and discrimination;
  • Sectoral segregation and/or;
  • Work-life balance, with women spending more time conducting informal unpaid work and caretaking responsibilities.

EDF’s recommendations to address unequal pay gap for women with disabilities

To address lasting inequalities, the European Commission included measures to foster access to the labour market in its Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 and Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025.

Unfortunately, women with disabilities, their challenges and perspectives are not explicitly or sufficiently mentioned under EU measures. To ensure that no woman is left behind, the EU must study the gender pay gap between women with disabilities, in comparison to men with disabilities and women without disabilities.

EDF recommends the following to the European Commission:

  • Pay transparency obligations must apply to all employers, regardless of the size of the organisation and the types of employment.
  • Legislation must introduce an intersectional approach through positive measures and non-discriminatory recruitment practices.
  • Alignment between part-time pay work and full-time pay.
  • Information on pay transparency must be available and accessible
  • Legislation must include effective and proportionate penalties for companies and compensation for victims of discrimination.
  • Equality bodies must have access to pay reports and be equipped to support complaints of pay inequalities from women with disabilities

Read EDF’s position paper and all the recommendations:

Disability and Gender Gaps: Addressing unequal employment of women with disabilities


Related links:
EDF proposals for amendments to the Pay Transparency Directive

Marine Uldry, EDF Senior Human Rights Officer marine.uldry@edf-feph.org