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Disability, employment and wages: evidence from Indonesia

Laura Caron (Columbia University, New York City, New York, USA)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 13 November 2020

Issue publication date: 8 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to quantify the labor market outcomes of people with disabilities (PwD) in Indonesia and compares them to people without disabilities. It first studies the labor force participation of PwD before examining the large and persistent wage gaps they face. It explores whether these wage gaps are explained by differences in productivity, a distinction which has important implications for policies addressing these gaps.


The analysis is based on the Indonesian Family Life Survey Wave 5, which includes unique questions allowing for several definitions of disability. Multinomial logistic regression is used to study differences in type of employment for PwD. Wage gaps are estimated and corrected for selection using propensity score matching, supported by a Heckman selection model and Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition. Comparisons with other physically disadvantaged subgroups and the analysis of heterogeneity by job requirements and sector of work explore whether productivity gaps help explain wage gaps.


PwD generally have lower unconditional labor force participation, but disparities largely disappear when controlling for characteristics. Moreover, patterns vary depending on whether the measure of disability used depends on prior medical diagnosis. PwD that do not require prior diagnosis tend to work in more vulnerable employment. When they are employed for wages, people with these types of disabilities face lower wages, up to 22% lower. Meanwhile, (surprisingly) those with medically diagnosed conditions face no difference or a wage premium. This paper finds compelling evidence that, where a wage penalty exists, a substantial part is unexplained by observable characteristics.


Previous literature on disability has been mostly based on studies of high-income economies. This paper extends the literature to Indonesia, which differs from high-income contexts due to lack of mental healthcare resources and assistive technologies, as well as weaker rule of law. It provides unique insights based on types of disability and the salient dimensions of disability in the workplace. It also provides evidence that productivity differences do not explain the wage gap.



The author would like to thank Erwin Tiongson and Shareen Joshi at Georgetown University for their guidance and helpful comments, along with the anonymous referees and Francesco Pastore for many useful comments and suggestions for improvement on an earlier version of this paper. The author would also like to thank Julia Watts Belser at Georgetown University for many discussions on disability and inequalities in inclusion. This research was conducted while the author was at Georgetown University.Funding: There is no funding to report.


Caron, L. (2021), "Disability, employment and wages: evidence from Indonesia", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 42 No. 5, pp. 866-888.



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