Disability Employment and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Seed Funding Project Lead Investigator

Associate Professor Bingqin Li Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Arts & Social Sciences.

Research Team

Professor Karen Fisher and Associate Professor/Scientia Fellow Zhiming Cheng Social Policy Research Centre. 

Project Background

China has over 85 million people with disability (6.4% of population) and Australia has 4.3 million (18.3% of population). With such a large proportion of the population labelled as having disability, their participation in the labour force has many implications for their own well-being, their families and their communities. People with disability are disproportionately excluded from the labour market, although the exclusion is not evenly distributed. People with complex disabilities, with developmental or intellectual disabilities or intersectional experiences, such as women, are more likely to be excluded from paid work. Our preliminary qualitative research found that people with disability who take up the opportunities of e-entrepreneurship, jobs in ICT and launching new enterprises were those most excluded from more traditional jobs. In China for example, we found people in poorer provinces and women are more eager to take up in digital economy opportunities. In Australia, we found cases of people with cognitive and psychosocial disability participating in online sales of their creative outputs. These findings mean that people with disability seem to have joined the labour force in the absence of other choices due to discrimination in mainstream jobs and for economic necessity.

Project Aim

This project is a comparative analysis of labour market exclusion of people with disability in Australia and China. It is background research to test the hypothesis that people who are excluded from paid work and formal economy are more likely to take up new opportunities in the informal sector and increase economic participation in the digital economy

Interdisciplinary research collaboration and partnership building

The research team and collaborators In Australia and China are engaged in policy and practice decision making in this field. Co-production will occur in the design, analysis and knowledge exchange stages in Australia and China with people with disability, through the collaborating partners, CRP and the research partnerships held by the Investigators, who maintain active relationships in their research programs with Disabled Persons Organisations (DPO) in both countries. The project will include knowledge exchange events in Beijing and Sydney. The workshops will invite policy makers (international organisations, central and local governments), think tanks, practitioners and academics in disability policy. The events will be used to publicise the research project and enhance further engagement.


Email: Associate Professor Bingqin Li Lead Investigator bingqin.li@unsw.edu.au

Image of reading glasses and Snellen chart used for visual acuity testing