In this study, it was analysed three datasets, which were collected from the 2011 Central Statistics Office census. The first one provides the total figure of people with disabilities in Ireland, by sex, age and place where they live. The other two are about people with disabilities over 15 years, one detailing the level of education and the other labor force participation. 

The initial purpose, during the data collection, was to understand more about the life of people with disabilities in Ireland, but with the resources found, my curiosity pointed straight to the matter of the inclusion of people with disabilities in society, specifically focused on education and labor force. 

Comparing the groups of people with disabilities and people with no disabilities, and also analysing the distribution by disability, age, sex, economic status and level of education, I tried to understand the general scenario of people with disabilities in Ireland and here I will share my analisys. 

Some of the data visualizations are interactive, so please read my findings but also navigate to find yours.

Age, Sex and County

The first dataset is consisted of the amount of people with disability in Ireland by sex, City/ County and age. The disabilities pointed in the data were as following: “A condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities”, “An intellectual disability”, “Blindness or a serious vision impairment”, “Deafness or a serious hearing impairment”, “Difficulty in learning, remembering or concentrating”, “Other disability, including chronic illness”, “Psychological or emotional condition”. The age categories are distributed into 5 groups: 0 – 12, 13 -18, 19 – 64, 65 – 74 and over 75 years old. And finally, the 32 counties of the Republic of Ireland.

According to this dataset, there were 595.335 people with disability living Ireland, in which 954.062 disabilities were reported, meaning that on average each person had 1.6 disabilities.

People with Disability in Ireland by age, sex and Province/ County/ City

When we compare male and females, men represent the majority of people with disabilities at the early ages of life, while the percentage of women with disabilities grows gradually as the age increases, until they become 50% in the range of 19 – 64 years and 63% from 75 years and over. It is possible to presume then that women develop more disabilities throughout life although they possibly live longer.

People with disability by age and sex

Almost 50% of the people who had a disability when the data was collected were between 19 and 65 years old and when we look at the absolute number of persons with a disability, this percentage rises to 53%. This is the age range in which people tend to be economically active and this will have to be considered later when we look at education and labor force. 

At the early age, from 0 to 12 years, when kids are developing their first skills, the most common disabilities pointed were Intellectual Disabilities, representing 34% of this age range, and Difficulty in learning, remembering or concentrating, representing 26%. While the least common disabilities were Other disabilities including Chronic Illnesses, Deafness and Physical Disabilities representing 9,5%, 4,8% and 4,5% respectively.

The figure keeps very similar looking at the group from 13 to 18 years. However, it is possible to notice a slight increase in the percentage of people reporting Difficulty in Learning, Remembering or Concentrating which represented 31,5% of this age group. 

The 19 to 64 years old age group has the most equal distribution over all the disabilities. Concomitantly, the percentage of people with Learning and Intellectual Disabilities drops to more than a half in comparison with the previous age category, representing around 15% each of them. It is also noticed a peak in the number of Psychological and emotional conditions reported by this age group.  

As people get older, between 65 to 74 years specifically, there are four Disabilities that clearly become more common: Deafness representing 21% of the total of disabilities for this age category, Physical Disabilities that impacts 20% of this group, Other disabilities including chronic illness reported by 17,5% and Blindness representing 15,5%.

The most common disability in people over 75 years was Deafness, which is 25% of the total of disabilities in this group, followed by physical disabilities representing 21%, and Blindness reported as 20% of the disabilities.

What this data tells us is that at the beginning of life, people are predominantly affected by Learning and Intellectual disabilities. Another significant number of people have Psychological and emotional conditions from adolescence and this number increases during adulthood. We also see that a significant amount of people acquire physical disability throughout life, and this number keeps increasing in individuals aged older than 75 years old. Finally, Blindness and Deafness also affect more older people.

Age and Disability


The second dataset analysed contains the information of population aged 15 years and over by disability type, highest level of education completed, and sex. The total of persons with 15 years and over totalize 3.608.662. From those, 542.277 reported having one or more disabilities. The total of disabilities were 1.521.818, giving an average of 3 disabilities per person. Once the total of persons and the total of persons with a disability were identified, it was possible to assume that the total of persons without a disability was 3.066.385. 

The disabilities pointed in this dataset are “Blindness or a serious vision impairment”, “Deafness or a serious hearing impairment”, “A condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities”, “An intellectual disability”, “Difficulty in learning remembering or concentrating”, “Psychological or emotional condition”, “Other disability including chronic illness”, “Difficulty in dressing bathing or getting around inside the home”, “Difficulty in going outside home alone”, “Difficulty in working or attending school/college”, and “Difficulty in participating in other activities”. Here the age categories are the same as in the previous dataset.

The number of people with disabilities with no formal education was almost five times bigger than people with no disabilities. Also, the number of people with disabilities educated to primary level only is three times higher when compared to people with no disabilities. 

While 27% of the people without a disability have completed higher education in Ireland, only 12% of people with disabilities have. However, for Doctorate specifically, people with disabilities and with no disabilities were much closer, representing 0,43% and 0,79% respectively. 

Level of Education – Education ceased

Looking at the picture of Level of Education by Disability, we notice that the huge majority of people with no formal education are those with an Intellectual Disability and also with Difficulty in Learning. It is important to remember that in the previous dataset analysis it was possible to see that these were the disabilities that mostly impact people at the early ages of life. On the other hand, the disabilities that impact people later in life, for example Deafness and Other disabilities are the ones with the lowest rates of no formal education.

It is worth to mention that as Psychological or Emotional conditions are mostly developed during adulthood, this group is the one that has the lowest rate of education ceased in the Primary level. In addition, people with an Intellectual Disability seem to be the most excluded from education once their percentage with no formal education is 25%, the highest among the disabilities mentioned. Also 35% of this group was educated to primary level only and Finally only 2,61% of people had completed Higher Education in 2011. 

Education ceased – by Disability

In relation to the people who had not ceased education at that time, almost 70% of people over 15 years without a disability were at school or university, while this number drops to 55% when looking at the people with a disability. 

Education not Ceased – Status

The Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities confirms that “Participation by people with disabilities in education at all levels is significantly below that of the population in general”. (Education | The National Disability Authority, no date). 

Labor Force

The third dataset analysed is consisted of the population aged 15 years and over with a disability by labor force participation rate by disability type, age and sex. The numbers of people, people with disabilities and disabilities are found to be exactly the same as the Education dataset, as well as the type of disabilities pointed. The total of people over 15 years in Labor force was 2.232.203. From those, 7,29%, 162.681 people reported having a disability. 

In total, almost 70% of the people with a disability were not in the labor force and it increases to 75% for women when the information is filtered by sex. For people with no disabilities this number plunges to the average of 32,5% between both sexes.

People over 15 – Disability and Labor force

Looking at the picture by disability we can see the distribution among all disabilities and also compare it against people without a disability. The disabilities with more people in the labor force are Psychological or emotional conditions with 30% of its total, Other disabilities including Chronic Illness with 28%, Deafness and Blindness with around 25% each. This may suggest that the barriers caused by these disabilities can be better overcome in job related activities. Also, these are disabilities that affect more people from the adulthood to aging, what may suggest that those who are affected by disabilities in the early ages of life tend to be not in the labor force.  

The disabilities that people who were not in the labor force more reported were Difficulty in going outside alone, Difficult in getting around home alone, and Physical disabilities. 

For those in the labor force, while for people without a disability the unemployment rate was 18.08%, for people without a disability it represented more than 30%. However, the representativeness of people at work being themselves the employer or own account worker was very similar, around 13% in the two groups. 

People aged 15 years and over in the Labor Force

Looking at the picture of people in the labor force by disability, we can see the employment rate for those who stated themselves as economically active. People who were deaf had the highest employment rate with 75%. In contrast, the disabilities with lowest employment rate were Difficulty in Learning, Difficulty in Working or Attending at School, Intellectual disability and Psychological or Emotional condition.

For those looking for first regular job, Learning and Intellectual disabilities had the highest unemployment rate, which means that they not only face educational barriers, but also that the first job opportunity is something easy to find.

People 15 and over in Labor Force by Disability 

Confirming the findings explored above, the National Disability Authority says that unemployment rate among people with disabilities is “significantly higher than in the labor market as a whole and that employment, where it is available, is often poorly paid and of a low-status”. (Work and Training | The National Disability Authority, no date)

Dataset 1: Disabled Population by Age Group

Dataset 2: CD819 – Population Aged 15 Years and Over (Number) by Disability Type, Highest Level of Education Completed, CensusYear and Sex

Dataset 3: CD811 – Population Aged 15 Years and Over with a Disability by Labour Force Participation Rate by Disability Type, CensusYear, Statistic and Sex