Because it’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues, I want to shine the spotlight on underemployment. The missed opportunities to connect talented people with full-time work and the independence they deserve needs more attention. So why haven’t you heard much about the issue? Probably because most people are obsessed with unemployment numbers. But the reality is that even in a strong job market, people with disabilities are much more likely to be unemployed. We also work part time at higher rates than those without a disability (32% and 17%, respectively) according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
Under-employment for people with disabilities is defined as being employed in a job that is inferior by some standard—either in hours, pay or likelihood of being promoted. Underemployment can also plague people who are overqualified for a job—common when people have 20 or more years of experience.
Today In: Leadership
All of these scenarios have negative outcomes. Chronic underemployment can undermine a job candidate’s confidence and can lead to stress, anxiety or depression. This overlooked group also has fewer opportunities to be promoted or to be chosen for professional development opportunities. For people with disabilities under-employment is both a serious financial problem and often a health issue.
Note: Not being able to make a living wage due to underemployment related to receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a related and equally gnarly problem. (While I don’t write about it in depth in this post, I do offer resources at the bottom of this post.)