Employment rate of those aged 20 to 64 by province and type of disability, 2017

What is this metric and why is it important?

Labour force statistics not only tell us about the health of the economy generally, but also provide insight into who is participating, who is excluded, and who is benefitting. In this metric, we look at the portion of a population that is employed, disaggregated by type of disability.

How is Canada doing?

  • In 2017 those aged 25 to 64 with disabilities had an employment rate of 55.5%, which was 20.8 percentage points lower than the overall rate.
  • The lowest rate was for those with cognitive disabilities, at 40.4%.
  • Those who were disabled in Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest participation rate in the provinces, at 43.0%.

Metric discussion

Labour force statistics broken up by disability type are from the Canadian Survey on Disability. The survey is from Statistics Canada, which defines the employed as those who did any work at all at a job or business in the previous year. This includes people who did unpaid family work, which is defined as “unpaid work contributing directly to the operation of a farm, business or professional practice owned and operated by a related member of the same household.” It also includes those who had a job but were not at work during the survey period due to illness, disability, family responsibilities, vacation, or labour disputes. 

If an inclusive innovation economy is judged on how well it provides opportunities and benefits for those who have been historically marginalized, the employment of people with disabilities provides an instructive case. But this is not simply a test of the system’s inclusiveness; the extent to which people with disabilities are employed is important for their health and well-being. The reality, however, is that people with disabilities face substantial exclusion—including lower employment and higher unemployment. 

While the innovation economy is not the economy at large, the distinction is often murky and ill-defined. Given the broad definition we use for the innovation economy, the employment rate in the larger economy gives a reasonable indication of the employment rate in the innovation economy. Differences across jurisdictions speak to the extent to which people have access to employment opportunities and the accompanying income and benefits.


The employment rate does not account for why someone is not employed: they could be choosing not to be for a variety of reasons, or may only work seasonally. The unemployment rate attempts to address this by only including those who are actively looking for work, but this comes with its own issues—namely what qualifies as “looking for work.”

© Inclusive Innovation Monitor 2021