The exclusion of people with disabilities involves losses in productivity and human potential (DFID, 2000, p. 4), which have economic costs for societies (Buckup, 2010). One study in Bangladesh found that, ‘reductions in wage earnings attributed to lower levels of education among people with disabilities and their child caregivers were estimated to cost the economy USD 54 million per year’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. ii). In addition, the ‘exclusion of people with disabilities from the labour market results in a total loss of USD 891 million/year; income losses among adult caregivers adds an additional loss of USD 234 million/year’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. iii). In Morocco, the lost income due to exclusion from work was estimated to result in national level losses of as high as approximately USD 1.1 billion (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. iii).
A study in 2000 calculated that the economic losses from lower productivity among people with disabilities across all low- and middle-income countries amounted to between USD 473.9-672.2 billion a year (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. iii, 42). A 2009 study of 10 low- and middle-income countries estimated that costs from lower labour productivity and exclusion of people with disabilities amounted to approximately 3-7 per cent of GDP, which is lower than the earlier study but still significant (Buckup, 2009, p. 51; Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, pp. iv, 42). It makes clear that ‘people with disabilities are less productive not because they are “disabled” but because they live and work in environments that are “disabling”’ (Buckup, 2009, p. 51).
In addition, public spending on disability programmes can be significant. This has encouraged some countries to foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labour market (WHO & World Bank, 2011, p. 43; Heymann et al., 2014, p. 4).
These studies indicate that policy makers should frame the exclusion of people with disabilities not only as a social but also as an economic concern (Buckup, 2010). It makes economic sense to create an environment that is supportive for people with disabilities (Buckup, 2009, p. 51). This is particularly important, as in times of crisis governments may cut spending and rethink budget allocations. However, ‘promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of work is not only a matter of rights and social justice but also contributes to sustainable growth and development’ (Buckup, 2010).
More research needed
While the Buckup study indicates that it is possible to generate country level data on the costs of exclusion, there is still a lack of evidence looking at the macro-economic costs of excluding people with disabilities. In addition, Walton (2012, p. 19) finds that few in-depth studies explore the links between inclusive growth and disability inclusive development, despite acknowledgement that people with disabilities will form a critical part of any inclusive growth strategy.
- Buckup, S. (2009). The price of exclusion: The economic consequences of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work (Employment Working Paper N. 43). Geneva: ILO. See document online
- Buckup, S. (2010). The price of excluding people with disabilities from the workplace. Geneva: ILO. See document online
- DFID. (2000). Disability, poverty and development. London: DFID. See document online
- Heymann, J., Stein, M. A., & Moreno, G. (Eds.). (2014). Disability and equality at work. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Morgon Banks, L., & Polack, S. (2014). The economic costs of exclusion and gains of inclusion of people with disabilities: Evidence from low and middle income countries. CBM, International Centre for Evidence in Disability, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. See document online
- Walton, O. (2012). Economic benefits of disability-inclusive development (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 831). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC. See document online
- WHO & the World Bank. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: WHO. See document online