Disability statistics - need for assistance


Data extracted in November 2015

Planned article update: July 2019

Highlights

Overall, 37 % of the 70 million people with disabilities aged 15 and over in the EU in 2012 reported a need for assistance, with this proportion slightly higher for women (39 %) than for men (34 %).

In 2012, people aged 65 and over in the EU with disabilities were most likely to report a need for assistance.

In 2012, employed people in the EU with disabilities were much less likely to report a need for assistance.

Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh130)

This article provides an overview of the special assistance that people in the European Union (EU) with various disabilities need or would need to overcome limitations or barriers. It is one of a set of statistical articles concerning disability statistics in the EU and accompanies a number of methodological articles which make up an online publication on disability statistics.

The data presented in this article come from two sources, namely: the one-off 2012 European health and social integration survey (EHSIS); and the 2011 ad hoc module of the EU Labour force survey (LFS) on the employment of persons with disabilities. The EHSIS covers people aged 15 and over, while the data presented in this article from the LFS ad hoc module refer to persons aged 15–64 (in other words the working age population).

Full article

People with disabilities requiring assistance

The first part of this article focuses on the proportion of people with disabilities that require assistance. Based on the concepts used in the EHSIS, people with disabilities are those who face barriers to participation in any of 10 specific life areas due to a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities. The proportion that require assistance relates to people with disabilities who reported that a lack of special aids, equipment, personal help or assistance prevented them from participating in at least one of the life areas in which they reported a disability.

According to the EHSIS, in 2012 there were 70.0 million people with disabilities aged 15 and over in the EU-27 [1], equivalent to 17.6 % of the population that was aged 15 and over.

Before looking at people with disabilities’ needs for assistance, it may be useful to recap some of the socio-demographic categories where there is a higher or lower prevalence of disability. The prevalence of disability was: higher for women (19.9 %) than for men (15.1 %); higher for people aged 65 and over (35.6 %) than for those aged 45–54 (18.8 %) or aged 15–44 (8.5 %); higher for people having completed at most lower secondary education (25.0 %) than those having completed at most an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (15.4 %) or tertiary education (11.0 %); higher for retired persons (34.3 %), unemployed people (20.5 %) and other economically inactive people (20.2 %) than for employed persons (8.0 %); higher for people living in single-person households (27.8 %), other households (21.7 %) and couples without children [2] (19.0 %), than for people living in households of single parents with children (13.5 %), households composed of at least one parent with children and another person (13.0 %) and couples with children (8.9 %).

Figure 1 provides an overview, for the EU-27, of the proportion of people with disabilities that, in 2012, reported that they needed assistance. Most of the different types of analysis presented for the EU-27in Figure 1 are repeated in Figures 2 to 5, supplemented by data for the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

Figure 1: Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh130), (hlth_dpeh160), (hlth_dpeh140), (hlth_dpeh135) and (hlth_dpeh150)

More than one third of people with disabilities reported a need for assistance, with the proportion nearer to two fifths among disabled women

Overall, 36.9 % of the 70.0 million people with disabilities aged 15 and over in the EU-27 in 2012 reported a need for assistance, with this proportion slightly higher for women (38.8 %) than for men (34.3 %). The proportion of people with disabilities reporting a need for assistance ranged, among the EU Member States, from 21.6 % in Austria to 47.0 % in the United Kingdom, with Hungary (18.5 %), Latvia (17.7 %) and Finland (15.7 %) below this range and Spain (50.4 %) and Italy (53.2 %) above it.

The gender pattern observed for the EU-27, namely a higher proportion for disabled women than for disabled men, was observed in all EU Member States with two exceptions: in Slovakia and the United Kingdom disabled men were more likely than disabled women to report a need for assistance — see Figure 2. The biggest gender gaps were recorded in Lithuania and Slovenia, where the proportion of disabled women aged 15 and over needing assistance was 11–12 percentage points higher than the corresponding proportion recorded among disabled men.

Figure 2: Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh130)

People with disabilities aged 65 and over were most likely to report a need for assistance

In the EU-27, in 2012, the need for assistance was quite similar for disabled persons aged 15–44 (31.5 %) as it was for those aged 45–64 (31.8 %), whereas among people with disabilities aged 65 and over the proportion rose to 44.2 % — see Figures 1 and 3. In the Netherlands, there was almost no difference between the age groups in the proportion of people with disabilities needing assistance; in Slovakia, younger people with disabilities (aged 15–44) were more likely than older people with disabilities to report a need for assistance, as was also the case in Norway; in the United Kingdom, people with disabilities aged 45–64 were most likely to report a need for assistance; in all of the other EU Member States and Iceland, older people with disabilities were most likely to report a need for assistance, as observed for the EU-27 as a whole. More than half of all people with disabilities aged 65 years and over in Greece, Lithuania, Estonia, France, Portugal and Spain needed assistance, with the highest proportion being recorded in Italy, at 59.9 %.

Figure 3: Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by age, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh130)

People with disabilities living in single-person households were most likely to report a need for assistance

People with disabilities living in single-person households in the EU-27 were the most likely to report a need for assistance, the proportion reaching 43.7 % in 2012. Lower proportions of people with disabilities living in households with children reported a need for assistance, particularly among people with disabilities living as a couple with children (27.8 %) — see Figure 1.

People with disabilities having completed at most a lower secondary level education were most likely to report a need for assistance

In the EU-27, in 2012, the reported need for assistance was about 50 % higher for people with disabilities with lower educational attainment than for those with higher levels of education (see Figures 1 and 4): 45.5 % of people with disabilities having completed at most lower secondary level education required assistance compared with 29.0 % for people having completed upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education and 30.6 % for those having completed tertiary education.

Finland was the only EU Member State where the highest proportion of people with disabilities requiring assistance was not recorded for people with disabilities having completed at most a lower secondary level of education (16.0 %), as a marginally higher proportion was reported for people with disabilities having completed tertiary education (16.1 %). In relative terms, Latvia and Cyprus recorded the largest difference in the need for assistance according to educational attainment: in both of these Member States, people with disabilities with a low level of educational attainment were about 80 % more likely to require assistance than people with disabilities with a medium level of educational attainment.

Figure 4: Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by educational attainment, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh140)

People with disabilities who were employed were much less likely to report a need for assistance

As already noted, people with disabilities aged 65 and over generally had a higher need for assistance than younger people. As this age group and the group of retired people are very similar in composition, it is unsurprising to find that disabled retired people in the EU-27 also reported a high need for assistance, 41.8 % in 2012 compared with the 36.9 % average for the whole population. However, the analyses by labour status provided in Figures 1 and 5 show that an even higher proportion (44.0 %) of economically inactive people (other than retired people) reported a need for assistance, while the proportion of disabled unemployed people requiring assistance was slightly lower, 37.8 %, but still above the average for all people with disabilities. The one labour status where people with disabilities reported a relatively low need for assistance was employed persons, as 20.1 % of disabled employed persons in the EU-27 reported a need for assistance, approximately half the share reported for any of the other labour status. Cyprus was the only EU Member State where an analysis by labour status shows that disabled employed persons (16.5 %) were not the least likely to report a need for assistance, as the proportion among disabled unemployed persons was lower (12.8 %).

Figure 5: Proportion of disabled persons aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by labour status, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh135)

The proportion of people with disabilities in the EU-27 needing assistance was inversely related to income

The final analysis shown in Figure 1 referring to the assistance needs of people with disabilities relates to income distribution. The proportion of people with disabilities reporting a need for assistance decreased with an increase in income: in the EU-27, in 2012, 40.7 % of people with disabilities in the lowest income quintile reported a need for assistance compared with 26.7 % of people in the highest income quintile.

People with difficulties in personal and household care requiring assistance

The data presented in the second part of this article also come from the EHSIS and again cover the population aged 15 and over. Based on the concepts used in the EHSIS, people with difficulties in a specific group of activities — such as personal care activities or household care activities — include people usually having difficulties (some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, or unable to do) in one of more activities listed specifically for each group. For the group of personal care activities the list includes feeding oneself, getting in or out of a bed or chair, dressing and undressing, using the toilet and bathing or showering. For the group of household care activities the list includes preparing meals, using the telephone, going shopping, managing medication, doing housework, and taking care of household finance and administration. As for people with disabilities, the proportion of people with difficulties in a specific group of activities that require assistance relates to people with the difficulties who reported that a lack of special aids, equipment, personal help or assistance prevented them from undertaking one or more of these activities.

According to the EHSIS, in 2012 in the EU-27 there were: 43.1 million people aged 15 and over with difficulties in personal care activities, equivalent to 10.4 % of all people aged 15 and over; and 49.6 million people with difficulties in household care activities, equivalent to 11.9 % of people aged 15 and over; note that there may well be a large overlap between these two groups of people, with people reporting difficulties in both personal care and household care activities. Before looking at the needs for assistance among people with difficulties in personal and/or household care, it may be useful to note that the prevalence of difficulties, whether with personal care or household care activities, was higher for women than for men, and higher for people aged 65 and over than for those aged 45–54 or aged 15–44.

Two fifths of people in the EU-27 with a difficulty in personal care activities reported a need for assistance

For the EU-27, 40.5 % of people with a difficulty in personal care activities reported a need for assistance with these activities in 2012, a somewhat higher proportion than observed for people with disabilities (36.9 %). Among the EU Member States, this proportion varied from 15.7 % in Luxembourg to 57.3 % in Greece, with the proportion of people with a difficulty in personal care activities reporting a need for assistance considerably higher in Romania, at 85.9 % (see Table 1).

Table 1: Proportion of people with difficulty in personal care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex and age, 2012
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh110)

Women with a difficulty in personal care activities were generally more likely than men to report a need for assistance

Among people with a difficulty in personal care activities in 2012, women in the EU-27 were somewhat more likely than men to report a need for assistance, 41.5 % compared with 38.8 %. As can be seen in Figure 6, higher proportions were observed for women in nearly all of the EU Member States, the exceptions being Sweden (where the difference peaked at 11.5 percentage points), Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. In Austria, Finland and Slovenia, the proportion of women with a difficulty in personal care activities who reported a need for assistance was more than 11.0 percentage points higher than the equivalent proportion for men.

Figure 6: Proportion of people with difficulty in personal care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh110)

People aged 65 and over in the EU-27 with a difficulty in personal care activities were more likely than younger people to report a need for assistance

People aged 65 and over with a difficulty in personal care activities were more likely to report a need for assistance than younger people: in the EU-27, a need for assistance was reported by 44.0 % of people aged 65 and over with such difficulties, compared with 37.3 % for people aged 45–64 and 34.4 % for those aged 15–44.

A total of 12 out of the 26 EU Member States with complete data reported a similar pattern, with the lowest proportion among the youngest age group and the highest proportion among the oldest age group, as can be seen in Figure 7. The oldest age group did not have the highest proportion of people with a difficulty in personal care activities who reported a need for assistance in the Czech Republic, Portugal and Romania, nor in the United Kingdom where the proportion among older people was considerably lower than for people aged 45–64. There were 10 Member States, including again Romania and the United Kingdom, where the lowest proportion of people with a difficulty in personal care activities who reported a need for assistance was not in the age group 15–44; this was also the case in Iceland.

Figure 7: Proportion of people with difficulty in personal care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by age, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh110)

More people in the EU-27 with a difficulty in household care activities reported a need for assistance than those with a difficulty in personal care activities

For the EU-27, 44.1 % of people with a difficulty in household care activities reported a need for assistance in 2012, a higher proportion than observed for people with a difficulty in personal care activities (40.5 %) and people with disabilities (36.9 %). Among the EU Member States this proportion varied from 18.6 % in Latvia to 61.7 % in France (see Table 2).

Table 2: Proportion of people with difficulty in household care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex and age, 2012
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh120)

Among people with a difficulty in household care activities, women in the EU-27 were somewhat more likely than men to report a need for assistance, 44.6 % compared with 43.0 %. As can be seen in Figure 8, higher proportions were observed for women in about two thirds of the EU Member States, the most notable exceptions being Slovakia (where the difference was 9.9 percentage points) and Luxembourg (8.5 points). In Malta, Cyprus and Slovenia, the proportion of women with a difficulty in household care activities who reported a need for assistance was more than 10.0 percentage points higher than the equivalent proportion for men.

Figure 8: Proportion of people with difficulty in household care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by sex, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh120)

Older people with a difficulty in household care activities were more likely to report a need for assistance than younger people: a need for assistance was reported by 44.7 % of people aged 65 and over in the EU-27 with such difficulties, compared with 43.3 % for people aged 45–64 and for those aged 15–44. A small majority of the EU Member States — 14 out of the 26 for which data are available — also reported the highest proportion among the oldest age group, as can be seen in Figure 9. The lowest proportion of people with a difficulty in household care activities who reported a need for assistance was recorded among the oldest age group in 7 of the remaining 12 Member States: Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Figure 9: Proportion of people with difficulty in household care activities aged 15 and over requiring assistance, by age, 2012 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dpeh120)

Disabilities and the labour market

Unlike the data presented in the first two parts of this article, the data presented in this section for disabilities and the labour market come from the 2011 ad hoc module of the LFS on the employment of persons with disabilities and cover the working age population (people aged 15–64).

In the Netherlands, approximately one third of employed people who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty used some kind of assistance at work, compared with 8.5 % in the EU-28 as a whole

In 2011, 8.5 % of employed people in the EU-28 who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty reported that they had used some kind of assistance at work — see Figure 10. Among the EU Member States, this proportion ranged from less than 5.0 % in Croatia, France, Estonia and Bulgaria to 15.9 % in Greece, with much higher proportions in Denmark (29.5 %) and the Netherlands (33.5 %); Iceland (23.8 %) also reported a relatively high proportion. These data suggest that employers in the Netherlands and Denmark were doing more to assist people with a disability who were in employment.

Figure 10: Proportion of employed people with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who have used assistance at work, 2011 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm180)

Among people with a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty, more employed women than men had used special assistance at work …

The proportion of employed women in the EU-28 who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty and who reported that they had used some kind of assistance at work was 9.3 % in 2011, 1.5 percentage points higher than the equivalent proportion for men (7.8 %).

Figure 11: Proportion of employed people with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who have used assistance at work, by sex and age, EU-28, 2011
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm180)

In 2011, a greater proportion of employed women with a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty used assistance at work than did men in all of the EU Member States except for Croatia, Cyprus and Poland; in Greece and Lithuania, as well as in Switzerland, there was almost no difference in the proportions observed for men and women. Denmark had the largest gender gap between working men and women with disabilities in employment who used assistance, with a 25.6 % proportion for men and 33.2 % for women (see Table 3).

Table 3 also provides an analysis of three different types of workplace assistance. In the EU-28, in 2011, the proportion of employed people with a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty who reported that they used each type of assistance was highest for special working arrangements and lowest for personal assistance, with the proportion that had used special equipment between the two. Women were more likely than men to have used each of these three types of assistance.

Table 3: Proportion of employed people with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who have or have not used assistance at work, by sex and type of assistance, 2011
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm180)

In 2011, more than one quarter (27.9 %) of people aged 15–64 not in work in the EU-28 who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty reported that they would need some form of assistance in order to be able to work (see Figure 12). The lowest proportions among the EU Member States were reported by France (8.1 %) and Hungary (10.3 %), with the proportion elsewhere ranging from 20.4 % in Sweden and Estonia to more than 50.0 % in Denmark, Romania and Slovakia, as well as in Iceland, and peaking at 54.0 % in Slovenia.

Figure 12: Proportion of people not in employment with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who would need assistance to work, 2011 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm190)

… but more men not in work than women in the same situation would need special assistance to be able to work

Concerning people in the EU-28 in 2011 who were not in work and who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty, a smaller proportion of women (26.9 %) than men (29.3 %) reported that they would need assistance to be able to work, as can be seen in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Proportion of people not in employment with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who would need assistance to work, by sex and age, EU-28, 2011
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm190)

A total of 20 of the 27 EU Member States for which data are available (no data for Luxembourg, see Table 4) and Turkey also reported that women not in work who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty were less likely than men to need assistance to be able to work, with the largest differences in Malta, Lithuania and Cyprus (all in excess of 10.0 percentage points). The remaining seven EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Switzerland, observed higher proportions of women than men not in work who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty reporting a need for assistance to be able to work, with the difference most notable in Denmark (7.8 percentage points); an even higher difference was observed in Iceland (12.5 points).

In the EU-28, in 2011, people not in work who had a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty were more likely to report that, in order to be able to work, they would need special working arrangements, rather than special equipment or personal assistance. In the EU-28, for all three kinds of assistance a larger proportion of men than women said that they would need assistance.

It should be noted that among people with a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty in the EU-28, the proportion that were not in work who would require assistance in order to be able to work was higher than the proportion that were employed who had used assistance, for all three types of assistance.

Table 4: Proportion of people not in employment with a long-standing health problem and/or a difficulty in basic activities aged 15–64 who would need assistance to work, by sex and type of assistance, 2011
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dlm190)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The data presented in this article come from two sources, namely the one-off 2012 EHSIS and the 2011 ad hoc module of the LFS. Both of these surveys collect information from individuals living in private households; neither of these surveys cover people living in collective households or in institutions, and this is an important point given that the prevalence of disabilities or difficulties might be different in such accommodation. The information presented from the EHSIS covers people aged 15 and over and that from the LFS ad hoc module covers people aged 15–64.

More detailed information about these surveys is given in the following background article:

Comparison of definitions — assistance

The EHSIS looked at two types of assistance, namely:

  • the use of special aids or equipment;
  • personal help or assistance.

Specifically it asked whether the lack of such aids, equipment, personal help or assistance resulted in:

  • difficulties for personal care activities (such as bathing, dressing and feeding oneself);
  • difficulties for household care activities (such as preparing meals, using the telephone, going shopping and doing housework);
  • a disability due to a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty which acts as a barrier to participation in different life areas.

The 2011 ad-hoc module of the LFS looked at three types of assistance:

  • personal assistance from colleagues, friends or relatives who help a person to work;
  • special equipment (items, devices or pieces of equipment that enable a person to work) or workplace adaptations (physical alterations to buildings where people with disabilities work);
  • special working arrangements and measures that can be thought of as supporting the work of persons with health problems or difficulties in basic activities (for example sedentary work, teleworking or flexible hours).

Whereas the EHSIS looked at the lack of assistance resulting in difficulties or disabilities, the 2011 ad hoc module of the LFS made a distinction between assistance needed and assistance actually used: employed people were asked about what assistance they used while people not in work were asked about the assistance they needed.

Context

The two main frameworks governing the current EU disability policy strategy are the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European disability strategy 2010–20. They require a regular collection of disability-related statistics to allow policies to be drawn up to monitor how these are implemented and to identify and address barriers faced by people with disabilities in exercising their rights. More information about the Convention and the strategy are available in an introductory article on disability statistics.

Article 9 of the UN Convention relates to accessibility. Among other subjects, it requires signatories to take appropriate measures to: provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in braille and in easy to read and understand forms; provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public; promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information.

Article 19 of the UN Convention relates to living independently and being included in the community. It recognises ‘the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community’ and requires signatories to ‘take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community’. Specifically it mentions that ‘Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’.

Article 26 of the UN Convention concerns habilitation and rehabilitation, in other words assisting a person to attain, maintain, or regain their independence, abilities, inclusion and participation in all aspects of health. It requires signatories to ‘organise, strengthen and extend comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services and programmes, particularly in the areas of health, employment, education and social services’. Signatories ‘shall promote the availability, knowledge and use of assistive devices and technologies, designed for persons with disabilities, as they relate to habilitation and rehabilitation’.

Specifically, the right of people with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others is laid down in Article 27 of the UN Convention. This ‘includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities’. The following aspects are covered:

  • non-discrimination,
  • protection for rights,
  • equal labour and trade union rights,
  • access to (technical, vocational and continuing) education and training,
  • employment opportunities and career advancement,
  • opportunities for self-employment,
  • public and private-sector employment,
  • provision of reasonable accommodation in the workplace,
  • promotion of work experience,
  • promotion of vocational and professional rehabilitation, job retention and return-to-work programmes.
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Prevalence of disability (source EHSIS) (hlth_dsb_prve)
Access to labour market for disabled people (source LFS) (hlth_dsb_lm)

Notes

  1. The EHSIS data for the EU-27 presented in this article exclude not only Croatia (which was the 28th Member State of the EU) but also Ireland. For this reason the EU-27 data are considered as estimates.
  2. For the purposes of the EHSIS, households with resident children include all children below the age of 25.