Disability in Ireland: Some Facts and Figures

Issued on October 3 2012

October 2012

Disability happens more than you imagine:

  • In Census 2011, 595,355 people recorded having a disability, equivalent to 13% of the population of Ireland.
  • However, the National Disability Survey (2006) which uses a broader definition of disability and chronic illness recorded a disability rate of 18%, comparable to other developed countries.
  • At least 1 in 10 adults of working age have a disability (15-64 years) [1] .
  • Disability is age-related and increases sharply with age. Just 5% of children between 0-14 years have a disability compared to 38% of adults over 65 years (Census 2011).
  • Approximately 4,000 people with disabilities still live in institutions or psychiatric hospitals.

People with Disabilities are more likely to experience poverty:

  • Families where the head of the household was not at work due to illness or disability had the lowest average annual disposable income in 2010. This was €23,900 compared to €56,537 for those at work.
  • Disabled people are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as the rest of the population.
  • Disabled people experience high levels of consistent poverty (13% compared to 2% of those at work). This means that they have a low income and have difficulty with basic provision such as a meal with meat or fish every second day or the ability to have adequate heating.
  • Additional costs of disability have been estimated to be a third of average weekly income3.


People with Disabilities have poorer educational outcomes:

  • Among people with disabilities, 43% have not progressed beyond primary education. This compares to 19% of all adults.
  • Over one third of young adults (25 to 29 years) with a disability left school before completing second level compared to one in six of young adults with no disability.
  • About one third of people with disabilities have been found to leave education before they intended because of their disability.

Disability affects a person’s employment opportunities:

  • In 2006, just 35% of people with disabilities were at work compared to 73% of the general population.
  • However, over one third of people with disabilities and almost two thirds of younger people in the 18-34 age groups would like to work if the circumstances were right.