Work and Disability – a multifarious equation

In France, the mental handicap remains the object of negative representations on the part of potential employers who question the professional and productive capacities of the people with disabilities.

On the other hand, people with disabilities generally have low levels of vocational training or no training at all. As a result, they can generally only access unskilled jobs.

However, the qualification levels demanded by employers are gradually increasing, including for low-tech jobs.

This is particularly the case in the hotel, restaurant, cleaning and environment sectors, which are understood in the broad sense, but which are recruiting professions whose market is in tension.

At the same time, new technologies are profoundly modifying space-time and forms of work: the dematerialization of a certain number of tasks, the disappearance of certain simple tasks, “light works “, the development of teleworking;  tertiarisation of activities requiring greater intellectual capacities and / or increased relational capacities (more cerebral and / or relational work), and relocation of “light works” activities; accelerating innovation that requires increased adaptability to the evolution of the production tool and new forms of work organization.

Current labor market trends are weighing on the effective access to work of people with learning disabilities as a result of:
– the increase in recruitment requirements and the competition of the most qualified;
– the demand for increased versatility for a given workstation;
– the flexibility of the required employment (employees will have to change employer or job several times);
– the culture of performance, indicators and evaluation;
– the pressure linked to an increased supply of work.”

In “UNAPEI – Livre Blanc « Travail et Handicap – une équation multiforme » nov. 2011 (

Stereotypes about people with disabilities: The results of the study: 8 lessons to remember

  1. Disability is perceived overall negatively. When we ask managers about what the disability is for them, near the half (49%) of the evocations that come to mind are terms that they consider negative,30% of the evocations are terms considered positive and 21% are neutral terms.
  2. A caricatural perception of disability and persons with disabilities: managers interviewed have a low level of knowledge of disability in the company. For example, only 17% know that the legal obligation is to achieve a 6% rate of hiring disabled employees, a figure that is nevertheless highly publicized.
  3. Ambivalent stereotypes: “people with disabilities are brave but unproductive”.
  4. The more graduates are the managers, the stronger are the stereotype.
    The study found that the most highly educated managers perceive disabled people as a homogeneous group. They don’t identify themselves as disabled, less than people with lower educated do.
  5. More managers perceive the commitment of their company in diversity, the more they have a positive image of disability and disabled people.
  6. Only professional contact influences the stereotype.
  7. More managers identify themselves with people with disabilities, more their stereotype is positive.
  8. Awareness tools little known and used by managers but that work.

Guide “Stereotypes about people with disabilities.” Understanding and acting in the workplace, avril 2011. (

5 speaking initiatives to defeat prejudices about work and disability

  1. A disabled person should not have a place in a company.

Every individual should have the access to a plurality of work environment allowing providing the answer that best suits one’s motivations and needs. Indeed, the offers for person with disability are very large (work in protected environment, work in adapted environment and work in ordinary environment).

  1. A disabled person is not able to work in autonomy.

People with disabilities, like others, can have a professional project. If they are well supported, they are able to acquire new skills and to evolve in their professional activity. Training is a key lever for people with disabilities to access employment accompanied. The latter consists of giving support to people with disabilities to find a paid job in an ordinary workplace and stay there.

  1. A disabled person can give a bad image to customers.

This prejudice is very often motivated by the lack of awareness of disability and more generally fear of difference. Those who are outside the norms still remain on the sidelines of the society. But for things that need to change at last and for every person with a disability can prove itself in the job market, the norm must become living together. The examples prove it, when the public is confronted with the disability; the prejudices end up very naturally by falling. People with disabilities are therefore almost always surprised by their skills and professionalism.

  1. Companies employing people with disabilities are less efficient and less competitive.

To guarantee their independence and meet the challenges of an increasingly growing environment, the ESAT (Company specializing in supporting work for people with disabilities) and the adapted companies have diversified their activities and are today in all sectors, especially those of peaks, such as the automobile, aeronautics, pharmaceuticals or digital. New links are being made to create new innovative economic activities.

  1. A disabled person can only participate in processes basic elaborations and may slow down production.

Once considered as simple relays for simple tasks, the disabled people can fully participate in complex production processes for the realization of services or products of high quality. The difficulty of a mission can be largely surpassed and noted with support and well thought out explanations. A place of engineering and social innovation, the disability sector is an economic force at the service of a social project. The tools available to support people in situations of disabilities are sometimes even useful to all employees. The working methods and organization put in place for people with disabilities serve sometimes even to all employees while maintaining sustained and quality production.

Folder UNAPEI “Disability and Employment”/ Week for the employability of people with disability. 2016.

Some data on the situation in France

– 46% of persons recognized as disabled are without a degree or only possess the BEPC (French Certificate of general education), compared to 28% of the total population.

– 25% of persons recognized as disabled have a vocational certificate or more (compared to 49% of the total population)

– The economic crisis has particularly affected access to employment for people with disabilities. According to the AGEFIPH, the number of jobseekers with disabilities more than doubled between 2007 and 2015, rising from 205864 to 471837 disabled workers enrolled at Pôle emploi, ie nearly half a million disabled people with an administrative recognition of their disability to unemployment.

– Thus, the unemployment rate of this population is 18%, almost twice the national average (10%). However, this public always presents particular difficulties of insertion (high age, lower level of training …) from which a long duration of registration with unemployment : 785 days on average, more than 200 days longer than for all audiences.

Défenseur des droits, République Française – Rapport « L’emploi des femmes en situation de handicap », analyse exploratoire sur les discriminations multiples, novembre 2016. (

It is important to distinguish between people with disabilities who have a job and those who seek one. Those who have a job:

They are 938 000 … out of 2.7 million people recognized as disabled.

They are 50 years old and over (against 32% for the whole population), and 54% are women (compared to 49% for the working population as a whole).

The level of education is revealing, only 24% have a qualification level Bac or higher (while 49% of the population has a higher level of study).

If they are mostly in the private sector (70%), 119,051 people work in an ESAT and 34,229 in an adapted company. Only 8% work independently.


The rate of unemployed persons with disabilities increases: + 4.7% compared to 2016, and therefore 513 505 people are out of work (at the end of 2017). 49% of these job seekers are 50 years old and over (compared to 25% for the global population).

Inequality is also felt with regard to the duration of unemployment: 57% have been unemployed for 1 year (45% for all claimants), and they remain unemployed longer: 804 days against 602 for the valid ones.

And the 6% mandatory?

Whether in the public or private sector, improvements are palpable.

Public sector: In 2016, it had 240,691 disabled workers, and the increase is everywhere:

+ 4.52% for the territorial civil service (43% of jobs),

+ 5.55% for the state (35%),

+ 6.62% in the hospital public service (22%).

Private sector: Here again a good growth with 7.4% more disabled workers between 2014 and 2015.

79% of companies with more than 20 employees employ at least one person with a disability, but only 30% fulfill their obligations under the law.

The typical profile of the employee: over 50 years old (51% versus 27% for all employees),

Rather feminine (44%), and 42% worker (against 22% for the rest of the employees).

2019: Les chiffres de l’emploi et du handicap. Sources : AGEFIPH 29 Juillet 2019.