Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: Canada

Opportunities for Collaboration

image of Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: Canada

Sickness and disability policy reform has been a priority for OECD countries wanting to improve employment and social outcomes in this domain. The recent recession and corresponding fall in labour demand is expected to hit marginalised workers, including workers with health problems or disability, harder than the broader working-age population. There is a pressing need for policy makers to address the recent “medicalisation” of labour market problems, a phenomenon that appears to underlie much of the difficulties countries find in disability policy making. This report is an assessment of the Canadian situation, albeit through the lens of the federal government and the provinces of Québec, British Columbia and Manitoba. It looks at the current state of play following a decade of various reforms and preceding a period where further revisions are likely.

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Key Issues and Challenges

The previous chapter shows that Canada has some of the major problems seen in most OECD countries, such as low employment and high unemployment of persons with disabilities. At the same time, the international trend towards increased use of disability benefits among the working-age population is not as apparent. While Canada is doing better than other countries in this respect, closer scrutiny of the shift to non-contributory payments as well as high poverty levels suggests low take-up does not necessarily mean that all persons with disabilities are getting the help they need to find work or the degree of income support they need to stay out of poverty. Attention is needed here as the current economic downturn is expected to make access to the labour market for marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities even more difficult, once they become unemployed. Poverty is already an issue for persons with disabilities and could become a major challenge for Canada as the effects of the crisis continue to unfold.

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