Autism and employment: Australia has work to do
Employment opportunities for autistic Australians are dire according to an Australian-first study released by Amaze today.
Conducted by the Centre for Health and Social Research and Australian Catholic University, the study found that while more than half of autistic Australians would like a paid job, only one in three were currently in a paid role.
It also revealed that more than half of unemployed autistic Australians (53.9 per cent) had never held a paid job, despite often possessing the skills, qualifications and a strong desire to join the workforce.
Amaze CEO Fiona Sharkie said the study’s findings were alarming.
“The message from Australia’s autistic community is abundantly clear – they want to work, and for employers to give them the same opportunities to enjoy participating in the workforce,” Ms Sharkie said.
“In Australia, the unemployment rate for autistic people is 31.6 per cent. This is three times the rate of people with disability, and almost six times the rate of people without disability.
“Autistic employees can bring a range of strengths, interests and skills to the workforce, often demonstrating exemplary characteristics in visual thinking, attention to detail, honesty, efficiency, precision, consistency and low absenteeism.
“The sad reality is autistic people feel unsupported in finding paid work and are challenged by the lack of understanding of autism from potential employers.
The good news
Everyone deserves an opportunity to participate in, and contribute to the workplace – all it takes is a better understanding of autistic people and the often simple adjustments they need to thrive.
Despite the reported experiences of autistic people and employment, the study – which also looked at community attitudes and behaviour towards autism in the workplace – found that most Australians would support an autistic colleague at work.
“Finding and keeping a job would be easier and more successful for autistic people if potential employers and colleagues understood autism and its characteristics,” Ms Sharkie said.
“This sentiment was echoed in the study, by the 70 per cent of Australians who believe employers should make adjustments for autistic employees in the workplace.
“Adjustments to create a more autism inclusive workplace often don’t cost anything to implement,” she added.
The most common adjustments employers can make to be more inclusive of autistic workers include flexible hours, sensory considerations, providing clarity around roles and expectations, offering direct but sensitive feedback and providing routine.
One in every 100 Australians is autistic and 85 per cent of the community has a personal connection with an autistic person – that’s a huge driver for workplaces to be more adaptable and support autistic people. It all starts with employers creating a work environment that is understanding and recognises the unique skills autistic Australians can offer a multitude of industries.