Disability and chronic disease

15 October 2019

As the EU’s population is ageing, the number of those with disabilities is rising. For the many Europeans with a disability or chronic disease, there are many obstacles that prevent them from participating fully in everyday life, and access to the labour market remains one of the main challenges. Promoting the active inclusion and rights of these people in society is a priority for the EU agenda.

The EU’s Disability Strategy 2010–2020 aims to reduce barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in society on an equal basis. It identifies eight main areas where action needs to be taken: accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action. In February 2017, the Commission published a progress report on the implementation of the strategy up to 2016 and highlighted some of the main achievements so far.

In November 2017, the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission formally proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, which reflects a joint commitment to providing a healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment for workers in the EU. It emphasises the right to equal treatment and opportunities regarding employment, social protection, education, and access to goods and services available to the public, regardless of disability.

Eurofound’s work

A recent Eurofound report on employment opportunities for economically inactive people examines groups within the inactive population that find it difficult to enter or re-enter the labour market and explores the reasons why. It maps the characteristics and living conditions of these groups, discusses their willingness to work and examines the barriers that prevent them from doing so. 

An earlier study on employment opportunities for people with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and mental health problems in the EU Member States and Norway. People with a chronic disease may have a reduced working capacity and experience difficulty staying at or returning to work. The report looks at the prevalence of people suffering from chronic diseases, their employment situation, uneven distribution among occupations and sectors, and working conditions. It looks at policies and measures adopted by governments, social partners and enterprises to improve employment prospects and working conditions of people with chronic diseases.

Eurofound research has examined the situation of young people with disabilities or health problems, a group that faces particular difficulties in accessing employment. The research was carried out in 11 Member States and at EU level, with an emphasis on assessing the implementation of active inclusion policy at national level. As well as an overview report, national reports for Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the UK are available.


Ongoing work

  • Examining services for labour market integration of people with disabilities based on data from the 4th EQLS to support policymaking in designing relevant and efficient services


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