Disability statistics

What is Disability?

A disability is any condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions. It may be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.

See our page What is disability for more information.


  • There are 4.4 million Australians with disability, representing 17.7% of the population, slightly less than the 2015 figure of 18.3%. [1]
  • 17.8% of females and 17.6% of males in Australia have disability. [1]
  • Of all Australians with disability, 1.9 million were aged 65 years and over (up from 1.8 million in 2015). [1]
  • The likelihood of living with disability increases with age. Half the population (49.6%) aged 65 years and over have disability. This reflects both an ageing population and increasing life expectancy of Australians. [1]
  • In comparison, one in nine (11.6%) people aged 0-64 years have disability. [1]

Hands typing on keeyboard

Types of Disability

  • In 2018, of the 4.4 million Australians with disability, over three-quarters (76.8%) reported a physical disorder as their main condition (the condition causing them the most problems), similar to 2015 (78.5%). [1]
  • 5.7% of all Australians have a profound or severe disability. [1]
  • Almost one-quarter (23.2%) of all people with disability reported a mental or behavioural disorder as their main condition, up from 21.5% in 2015. [1]
  • 3.6 million Australians have some level of hearing loss. [2]
  • 16,000 Australians use Auslan. That number includes people for whom Auslan is their primary or only language, and also people who use Auslan at home to communicate with native Auslan users, such as children of Deaf adults. [3]
  • Vision Australia estimates there are currently 453,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision. They project that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030. (Refractive error not included). [4]
  • Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, while one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year. [5]
  • Not having a job, or enough work, can affect mental wellbeing and impact physical health, relationships, and sense of identity. Financial health and mental health are closely linked. [6]


Man with safety glasses using yellow drill. Wood work in background.

Employment of People with Disability

37.9% of Australians with disability aged 15-64 years said their main source of personal income was a government pension or allowance, down from 41.9% in 2015. [1]

In 2018, 2.1 million people with disability living in households were of working age (15-64 years).

  • Labour force participation – defined as either working or looking for work – for those aged 15-64 years has remained stable since 2015 at 53.4%, in contrast to an increase in the participation rate for people without disability (84.1%).  [1]
  • 46.6% were not in the labour force, compared with 15.9% of those without disability. [1]
  • Almost half of people in the labour force (47.8%) were employed, compared with 80.3% of people without disability. [1]

In 2018, just over one-quarter (28.3%) of all people with disability of working age were employed full-time (similar to 2015), compared with more than half (54.8%) of those without disability (also similar to 2015). However, a higher proportion of people with a profound or severe disability were working full-time in 2018:

  • 11.4%, compared with 7.9% in 2015, driven by an increase in women with a profound or severe disability working full-time (9.2% in 2018, up from 5.5% in 2015). [1]
  • 14.6% of men with a profound or severe disability worked full-time, though there was no statistically significant difference from 2015 (10.0%). [1]
  • While 90% of working-age (15–64) people with disability in the labour force – defined as working or looking for work – are employed, others face challenges seeking and engaging in employment. This is reflected in their generally lower rates of labour force participation and employment, and higher rates of unemployment, compared with working-age people without disability. [7]
  • 59% of people with disability aged 15 – 64 who are not in the labour force are permanently unable to work. [7]
  • 48% of people of people with disability aged 15 – 64 are employed. This is lower than those without disability (80%). [7]
  • 1 in 10 employed people aged 15-64 with disability are underemployed. [7]
  • Young people (aged 15-24) are more likely to be underemployed than those aged 25-64. [7]
  • People with disability aged 15 – 64 are twice as likely to be underemployed as those without disability. [7]
  • 93% of unemployed people with disability aged 15 – 64 experience difficulties in finding employment. [7]
  • 17% of employed wage or salary earners with disability aged 15 – 64 use leave arrangements to have one day or more off work per week in order to manage their disability: 25% have flexible hours, 14% take unpaid leave, 14% sick leave and 53% are casual or part time. [7]
  • The most common occupations of Australian people with disability are: professionals 23%, technicians and trade workers 15%, clerical and admin 13% and labourers 12%. [7]
  • Graduates with disability take 61.5% longer to gain fulltime employment than other graduates. [8]
  • Global research has found that when employee health and wellness is managed well the percentage of engaged employees increases from 7% to 55%. [9]

Close up of cement being leveled

Customers with disability

  • People with disability are three times as likely to avoid an organisation and twice as likely to dissuade others because of an organisation’s negative diversity reputation. [10]
  • 36% of people with disability are often treated less favourably than customers without disability. [10]
  • 28% of people with disability have experienced discrimination by one or more of the organisations they’ve recently interacted with. [10]
  • 1 in 3 people with disability report that their customer needs are often unmet. [10]
  • 62% of SME’s have not done anything in the past 12 months to make it easier for customers with disability. For almost half of these, there is a perception of not being asked to. “We have received no specific requests.” [11]
  • Of the Australians with disability aged 15 and over, almost one-third (33.1%) avoided situations because of their disability. One of the most common situations avoided were going to shops, banks etc. (34.3%). [10]


Woman with gloves and yellow hard hat working on a machine.


In a 12 month period, among people aged 15–64 with disability living in households: [12]

  • 1 in 5 (22%) experienced some form of discrimination (including disability discrimination), compared with 1 in 7 (15%) without disability (2019)
  • 1 in 6 (16%) experienced disability discrimination (2018).
  • 4 in 9 (44%) avoided situations because of their disability (2018).

Some experienced barriers to accessibility which could be a form of indirect discrimination:

  • 3 in 10 (30%) of those who had challenges with mobility or communication had difficulty accessing buildings or facilities (2018).
  • 1 in 6 (16%) of those who leave home had difficulty using public transport, and a further 11% were unable to use public transport at all (2018).


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers– external site opens in new window accessed 30 November 2023

About ear health| Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care accessed 30 November 2023

Census of Population and Housing 2021 Language used at home (LANP) | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au) accessed 30 November 2023

How do you know if you have low vision? | Vision Australia. Blindness and low vision services accessed 30 November 2023

Mental health in the workplace | Australian Human Rights Commission 2010, accessed 30 November 2023

Unemployment and mental health (beyondblue.org.au) accessed 30 November 2023

People with disability in Australia, Employment – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au) accessed 30 November 2023

‘Grad Stats’, 2017, Graduate Careers Australia, gradstats-2017-3.pdf (graduatecareers.com.au) accessed 30 November 2023

‘Benefits to business: The evidence for investing in health and wellbeing‘ 2011, ComCare Benefits to business – The evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing (workrehab.com.au) accessed 30 November 2023

Missing out: The business case for customer diversity’ 2017, Australian Human Rights Commission, viewed 27 August 2019.

‘2017 Disability Confidence Survey’ 2017, Australian Disability Network, viewed 27 August 2019.

 People with disability in Australia, Disability discrimination – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au) last updated July 2022, accessed 30 November 2023