Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: Canada

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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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Summary and Recommendations

Canada is facing similar sickness and disability policy challenges to many other OECD countries: low rates of employment and high rates of unemployment of people with health problems or disability; a much higher poverty risk for this population group; and growing dependence on disability benefits (though the latter varies by province). Some global trends are, however, less pronounced in Canada, such as the gradual shift from unemployment to disability and the rising incidence of mental illness as a basis for disability benefit claims. Other problems are more pronounced than on average across the OECD, in particular the large proportion of persons with disabilities facing poverty – an outcome in part related to the lower generosity and limited accessibility of its benefit system.

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