Each person with Down syndrome is unique and brings specific interests, knowledge, skills and personal attributes to the workplace.
Data from the NDIS (2020) shows that:
- Only 34% of people with Down syndrome over the age of 25 years have a paid job (compared to 76% of their peers without Down syndrome).
- Of those who are employed, only 8% are in open employment.
- The majority of people with Down syndrome who are employed are working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs).
- Of all NDIS participants, participants with Down syndrome (72%) are the most likely to be working in an ADE.
- Participants with Down syndrome tend to work longer hours when they are working in an ADE, compared to non-ADE employment.
- Participants with Down syndrome (5.0%) or autism (10.9%) are the least likely to work more than 30 hours per week.
- Participants with Down syndrome are the most likely to work between 8 and 30 hours per week (66.4%).
Many people with Down syndrome wish to work but find it difficult to get a job. NDIS data (2020) shows that 62.8% of participants with intellectual disability and Down Syndrome have listed a work goal in their NDIS plan, but are not currently in paid employment. This means that there around 37,042 Australians with intellectual disability and Down syndrome who don’t have a paid job but would like one.
Dismissive and discouraging attitudes from employers and employment services often make it difficult for people with intellectual disability to obtain open employment. Research conducted by Meltzer, Robinson & Fisher (2020) with 51 people with intellectual disability, reported that many participants experienced misconceptions about their disability and negative assumptions about their capacity to work. These negative attitudes limited the options available to people with intellectual disability in their search for work.
A 2021 national survey of community attitudes toward people with disability in Australia highlights the attitudinal barriers faced by people with disability. One in five survey respondents believed that employers should be allowed to refuse to hire a person with disability. One in five also agreed that people should not expect too much from people with disability. Information and education are needed, to address stigma and negative attitudes towards intellectual disability in open employment and employment services, to ensure that people with intellectual disability are given every opportunity in the open labour market.
 (Meltzer et al (2020)
 (Meltzer et al, 2020)
 (Bollier et al, 2021)
 (Bollier et al, 2021)
Bollier AM, Sutherland G, Krnjacki L, Kasidis V, Katsikis G, Ozge J & Kavanagh AM. (2021). Attitudes Matter: Findings from a national survey of community attitudes toward people with disability in Australia. Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health, The University of Melbourne. doi: 10.26188/15176013
Meltzer, A., Robinson, S., and Fisher, K. (2020) Barriers to finding and maintaining open employment for people with intellectual disability in Australia, Social Policy Administration, 54, pp 88-101.
NDIS (2020) Employment outcomes for NDIS participants, data as at 31 December 2020
Last updated: June 2022