Social policies and data

Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - Canada: Opportunities for Collaboration


Press release I Figures and Statistics I Previous and forthcoming reports


Published: 2010

85 pages

Free of charge (.pdf)

How is it possible for average health status of the population to improve while many workers continue to leave the labour market permanently due to health problems or disability, forced to rely on welfare to survive? At the same time, many working-age adults with reduced work capacity are denied the opportunity to work. This social and economic tragedy is common to virtually all OECD countries, including Canada. It is a paradox that warrants explaining as well as innovative action. 
This single-country report in the OECD series Sickness, Disability and Work explores some of the reasons behind this phenomenon in Canada and the potential of its unique policy setup, involving many public and private players as well as different levels of government, to lower inactivity and increase participation. The report includes a range of policy recommendations to address evident and foreseeable gaps.

Canada shares many of the problems found in other OECD countries, including low rates of employment, high rates of unemployment and a high poverty risk for people with disability. However, despite an increasing trend, still fewer people than in most other OECD countries are receiving a long-term sickness or disability benefit. This can help in the years to come in the ongoing efforts of the federal and provincial governments to put in place a far more employment-oriented disability policy system.

This report concludes that further change is needed especially in regard to better coordination of federal and provincial programmes, better accessibility of services and supports building on a one-stop-shop approach and a mutual-responsibility framework, and systematic early identification and intervention including a stronger role of employers to prevent labour market detachment.

Press Release

Further reform of sickness and disability policies needed, says OECD

Underlying figures and statistics (.xls)

Figure 1.1 People with disability are far less likely to be employed all over the OECD
Figure 1.2.Figure 1.2

People with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed, even in good times

Figure 1.3


Stable public disability benefit recipiency rates in Canada
Figure 1.4 Some of the drop in unemployment was substituted by an increase in disability benefit rolls
Figure 1.5

More and more inflows into disability benefit because of mental health conditions

Figure 1.6 A shift towards assistance-type payments in Canada but not in the US
Figure 1.7

People with disability are at greater risk of living in or near poverty

Figure 1.8

Incomes of non-employed people with disability are very low in English-speaking countries

Figure 1.9

Disability benefit levels in Canada are comparatively low for all schemes

Figure 1.10


Many non-employed Canadians with disability are excluded from benefits
Figure 1.11 Employment and poverty levels are broadly similar across the three provinces
Figure 1.12 Large cross-provincial differences in disability beneficiary rate trends over the past decade
Figure 1.13 The array of federal and provincial benefits for Canadians with disability
Figure 2.1 Canada spends little on ALMP, in line with all other English-speaking countries
Figure 2.2 Overall spending on incapacity benefits in Canada is just below the OECD average
Figure 2.3 Benefit stacking is potentially important but 3 in 4 beneficiaries receive only one benefit
Table 1.1 The disability criterion of CPP-D is stricter than the criteria used in other OECD countries
Table 1.2 The array of Employment Benefits and Support Measures
Table 1.3 Only a minority of users of Employment Benefits and Support Measures have a disability
Table 1.4 Provincial social assistance programmes for persons with disability
Table 2.1 Canadians with disability can claim a variety of federal, provincial and private benefits
All Figures All 21 above figures and tables as (.zip)

Previous and forthcoming reports


This publication is a single-country report following the series of three comparative report on sickness and disability policies in selected OECD countries.


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