Canadian Survey of Disability 2017

February 28, 2019

Statistics Canada released the Canadian Survey of Disability 2017 in November, 2018. It can be found here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm.

The survey provides useful information on how disabled people are living in Canada today. The figures cannot be directly translated to the workers compensation context, because disabled people for Statistics Canada include both people who have never worked and people who are outside the scope of the workers' compensation system (e.g. almost all professionals, executives/business owners, bank and insurance company workers). However, the study does point to factors that are important in how well disabled people fare financially. Severity is an obvious factor. Educational attainment is another important factor. Employment rates for people with milder impairments and high school or less education were employed 12% less often whereas people with milder impairments with college qualification are employed 4% less often and university degrees 2.5% less often (see Table 8 in the report). For those employed, part-time work is up, from 7.5% for the non-disabled to 10.8% for those with milder impairments and 25.1% for those with more severe impairments (Table 9). Finally, even for those employed on a full-time basis, income is off 4% for those with milder impairments and 15% for those with more severe impairments (Table 12).

Shockingly, the median income for those with more severe impairments and who are not employed is $12,500 in the Statistics Canada report (Table 12); I wonder if the same thing is true of injured workers with "more severe" impairments. Translating "more severe" impairments for Statistics Canada purposes to non-economic loss levels for WSIB purposes will not be a straight-forward matter. It would be very useful nonetheless to have the breakdown of worker income including WSIB payments, for those who are not employed at the final review, broken down by NEL percentage (1-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60+), and their inflation-adjusted pre-injury earnings. The Board's annual reports have a wealth of data relevant to employers, but a paucity of data relevant to workers.

Another surprisingly important factor for disabled people in general is their living arrangement. For people living alone with no disability, the number living with income below the poverty line is 21%. For those with more severe impairments, the comparable figure is 61.4%. For no other living arrangement is a disability near as important in determining poverty rates (Table 14 in the report).

There are studies of injured workers' post-injury income, but I am not aware of any study in the last decade with a large sample. We have work to do.