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Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 pp 217226 September 2016

doi: 10.1111/jppi.12157

Post-School DestinationA Study of Women

and Men With Intellectual Disability
and the Gender-Segregated Swedish Labor Market
Jessica Arvidsson*, Stephen Widen, Carin Staland-Nyman*, and Magnus Tideman*
*School of Health and Welfare, Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden; and Institution of Health and Medicine,

Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Orebro

University, Orebro,

Knowledge about people with intellectual disability (ID) and their connections to the labor market is scarce. The aim of this study
was to describe and analyze the entry into and representation in the Swedish labor market for people with ID, discussed with a special
focus on the gender perspective. This study included 2,745 individuals (30% women and 70% men) who graduated from Swedish
upper secondary schools for pupils with intellectual disability (USSID) in the 2000s, and who were defined as employees in 2011.
Graduation data from 2001 to 2011 were analyzed in relation to employment data from 2011 and adjusted for gender, graduation
year, and educational program. Results show that men who attended a national USSID program and graduated between 2001 and
2006 were the most likely group to have a job. The authors conclude that the gender differences in the Swedish labor market are
more clearly pronounced among women and men with ID in relation to employment rate, wage levels, and professions than in the
general population. Education, welfare-services, and interventions specifically targeted to meet the needs of people with ID have to
develop in more gender-sensitive ways.
Keywords: employment, gender, intellectual disability, labor market, Sweden

Work is a central part of adult life. Having a job affects ones
material conditions, creates structure in everyday life, broadens
social networks, and affects personal status and identity (Grant,
2008; Jahoda, Kemp, Riddell, & Banks, 2008; Trembath, Balandin,
Stancliffe, & Togher, 2010). These conditions apply in all respects
to people with intellectual disability (ID), but they face considerable difficulties regarding establishment in the labor market
(Batevik & Myklebust, 2006; Eisenman, 2003; Ju, Pacha, Moore,
& Zhang, 2014; Taanila, Rantakallio, Koiranen, von Wendt, &
Jarvelin, 2005; Trembath et al., 2010).
A few earlier qualitative studies describe people with ID in
relation to obstacles regarding their entry into the labor market
in Sweden (Mineur, Bergh, & Tideman, 2009; Molin, 2004, 2008;
Nolen, 2005). A recently published quantitative study showed
that 22.4% of 12,269 young adults with ID were gainfully
employed (Arvidsson, Widen, & Tideman, 2015).
In international comparisons, Sweden is seen as one of the
worlds most equal countries, but there are still major differences
regarding equality in terms of work segregation between women
Received February 2, 2015; accepted April 21, 2016
Correspondence: Jessica Arvidsson, School of Health and Welfare,
Halmstad University, Box 823, 301 18 Halmstad, Sweden. Tel: 146 35 16
73 90; E-mail:

and men in the labor market (Gonas, Lindgren, & Bildt, 2001;
Blomberg & Niskanen, 2013). Factors such as gender and ethnicity have been related to a weaker position in the labor market (de
los Reyes, 2000; Mulinari & Selberg, 2011). In addition, we know
that women in the general population have a lower employment
rate, work more part-time, and earn less than men (Gonas et al.,
2001; Nyberg, 2003, 2012; Sandell, 2007; Statistics Sweden, 2014).
These differences between women and men, however, have
not yet been addressed to any great extent in disability research
(Barron, 2001, 2004, 2010; L
ovgren & Hamreby, 2011; Sheldon,
1999; Umb-Carlsson & Sonnander, 2006), and rarely with regard
to people with ID (Batevik & Myklebust, 2006; Reid & Bray, 1997;
Umb-Carlsson & Sonnander, 2006). In addition, the impact of
elapsed time since graduation on the probability of entering the
labor market among people with ID has not been addressed earlier. The overall aim of this study was to describe and analyze the
entry into and representation in the Swedish labor market for
women and men with an ID from a gender perspective.
The overall objective of the Swedish disability policy is to give
people with disability equal opportunities to participate in society, to have equal living conditions, and to strengthen their position on the labor market. Various welfare activities to realize this

C 2016 International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

unpaid occupation but is intended to increase an individuals

participation in the society and to promote job opportunities.
Individuals, who are of working age and who neither work
nor study, could apply for daily activity service (National Board
of Health and Welfare, 2008). Of all 10 services in the LSS, daily
activity has increased the most in terms of number of users since
the law entered into force, and the services most common users
are individuals aged 2025 (National Board of Health and Welfare, 2008).

Wage Subsidies and Income Support

The Swedish school system.

ambition are included in the Swedish welfare system, which is
characterized by a combination of general measures and services,
and support and services targeting specific groups (Lindqvist,
2012). One specific group is people with ID. The following section briefly introduces the Swedish school system designed for
children and youth with ID, the law regulating the services that
people with a disability can receive, and relevant parts of the public financial support system for this group.
Upper Secondary School for Pupils With Intellectual
Disability (USSID)
From the age of 7 to 16 children with ID are in the compulsory school for pupils with ID. The USSID are part of the noncompulsory school system (see Figure 1), available for students
aged 1620 with ID. During the 20102011 academic year, 2.35%
of all Swedish students of that age cohort attended a USSID
(National Agency of Education, 2011).
The USSID system offers four types of educational programs.
The most common is enrollment in one of eight national programs. The national programs focus on different parts of the
labor marketfor example, vehicles and transportation, hotels
and restaurants, or social and healthcare. In addition to the
national programs, there are specially designed programs that
target students in need of more individually tailored education.
Students who are unable to follow a national or a specially
designed program are offered enrollment in an individual program with either vocational training or training activities. Training activities are tailored to students who have the most extensive
impairments. Especially national and specially designed programs, and to some extent vocational training, are designed to
prepare students for an active working life.
The Act Concerning Support and Service for Persons With
Certain Functional Impairments (LSS)
A central feature in the Swedish disability policy is the Act
concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (Swedish LSS Act, 1994), a law of individual
rights that entered into force on January 1st, 1994.
LSS outlines 10 publicly funded services and the service that
is particularly relevant to this study is daily activity, which offers

Benefits paid through the Swedish social insurance system

has long been based on the fact that people have, or have had, a
job and a salary. However, many people with ID face difficulties
entering the labor market. To support individuals entering and
participating in working life, there are different forms of financial
support in the Swedish welfare system. A common labor-market
policy measure is, for example, wage subsidies (Gustafsson,
Prieto Peralta, & Danermark, 2014).
To facilitate entry into the labor market for people with ID,
an employer who hires a person with a disability can be compensated by the state through wage subsidies. The level of the wage
subsidy is dependent on the persons ability to work and the salary cost. The maximum wage subsidy is SEK 16,700 per month
(approx. USD 2,220). This amount may constitute a persons full
salary and wages above this amount and is paid solely by the
employer. The wage subsidy should be a temporary support and
is normally paid for a maximum of four years (Swedish Public
Employment Service, 2012).
Some forms of compensation are targeted at people with disability who are unable to work full-time. People between 19 and
30 years old can receive activity compensation at a rate depending
on the fraction of time that they are able to work. When a person
is older than 30 years, she/he can get sickness compensation
instead of activity compensation (Swedish Social Insurance
Agency, 2013). Other types of compensation for loss of income
are unemployment benefits and parental benefits. When a person
has temporary financial problems, social assistance can be paid to
secure her/his upkeep and a reasonable standard of living.
Women and Men With ID in School and in the Labor
Earlier studies have found that there are differences between
women and men in Swedish mainstream secondary schools when
it comes to type of educational programs (Sandell, 2007). In relation to young women and men with ID, Mineur (2013) found
that different conditions were provided to female and male students when facing the transition from school to working life. For
instance, men were offered a higher amount of vocational training (Ibid).
Moreover, previous research has shown that differences also
exist regarding the ability of women and men with special educational needs to enter the labor market (Batevik & Myklebust,
2006), and that women and men with ID are employed in different sectors of the labor market (Umb-Carlsson & Sonnander,

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

2006). Studies from the mid- and late 1980s identified differences
regarding the labor-market experiences of women and men with
ID, and a significantly lower probability for women to be
employed compared to men has been noted (Lichtenstein, 1996).
In 2000, Tideman concluded that some of those gendered differences marked for the rest of the population are also valid among
people with ID, especially in relation to employment (Tideman,
2000, p. 126).
In disability studies work has traditionally been studied from
a gender-neutral perspective without taking into account the different structures and challenges that women and men with ID
face in the labor market (L
ovgren & Hamreby, 2011), and the
need for a gender perspective has been highlighted (Barron,
1997; Hendey & Pascall, 1998; L
ovgren, 2013; Riddell, Baron, &
Wilson, 2001; Umb-Carlsson & Sonnander, 2006).
Previous, a few qualitative studies have focused on young
adults with ID and their transition from school to adult life and
work, but no quantitative study based on a complete national
survey of people with ID and the labor market exists. Neither are
there, to our knowledge, any previous studies that analyze the
time it takes for women and men with ID to enter the labor market after graduation. The current explorative study aims to
decrease this knowledge gap.
The Construction of Gender
The gender order in society implies that resources and power,
at societal and individual levels, are unevenly distributed between
women and men. Hirdman (2001) concludes that this is an
example of women being valued less than men.
Science theorist Sandra Harding (1986) argues that the gender order and the construction of gender operate on three different levels. In the upper symbolic level, gender is constructed in
the beliefs about what women and men are and should be. The
male and the female are linked to different phenomena, qualities,
and character traits (Hedlin, 2011). These beliefs are reflected in
society and may affect the next levelthe structural. In this second level, the construction of gender is expressed, for example, in
education and in the workplace as a result of how gender is manifested and constructed at the symbolic level. Hardings third
level, the individual, comprises the ways in which values and
dichotomies between male and female on the symbolic level, as
well as positions and hierarchies on the structural level, affect the
construction of gender for the individual. This is, for example,
reflected in the various standards regarding how young women
and men should be treated, behave or act. Later gender researchers have also based their arguments on similar analyses of the
construction of gender (Haavind, 1993; Moi, 1997; Thuren,
2000; Wahl, 1996).
According to Harding (1986), it is essential that the interaction between the three levels is examined. By using Hardings terminology, the distribution of young women and men with ID in
different education programs or positions on the labor market
can be seen as a reflection of the symbolic construction of gender
on a structural level. In this study, the construction of gender is
considered on the structural level in relation to the symbolic level
since current data does not enable analysis at the individual level.

Aim and Research Questions

The aim of this study was to describe and analyze the entry
into and representation in the Swedish labor market of women
and men with ID, discussed from a gender perspective. The following questions are addressed:
 What are the associations between graduation year, different
educations programs and the probability of entering the
labor market?
 How does representation in the labor market differ between
women and men with ID with respect to employment rates,
level of income, professions, labor market sectors, and subsidies and income support?

Data and Methods

Data Collection
This study is based on data from the Halmstad University
Register on Pupils with Intellectual Disability (HURPID). The
HURPID database is based on a complete national survey of
students who graduated from USSIDs in Sweden. The final
grades of all students who graduated between 2001 and 2011
were collected and data from these documents, including personal code number, sex, school municipality, educational program, and graduation year, formed the database. HURPID
provides, for the first time in Sweden, a comprehensive picture
of the students who attended Swedish USSIDs during the first
decade of the 21st century. The database includes a total of
12,269 individuals (5,131 women and 7,138 men). The HURPID population is further presented in Table 1, which shows
the distribution in HURPID on sex, educational program, and
year of graduation. The study received ethics approval by the
Ethical Review Board in Lund, June 8, 2011 (No. 2011:326 and
Study Population
A previous study based on HURPID (Arvidsson et al., 2015),
showed the post school destinations in 2011 of the 12,269 students who graduated from USSIDs between 2001 and 2011. Post
school destinations were identified by merging data from HURPID with data from two national registers, the Integrated Database for Labor Market Research (LISA; which includes all people
in Sweden over the age of 15) and the LSS register (which
includes all those who receive services under the Act Concerning
Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional
Impairments [LSS]). Results show that 47% (n 5 5,760) of the
12,269 former students were in daily activity, 22.4% (n 5 2,745)
were gainfully employed, 6.6% (n 5 809) were studying, and
24% (n 5 2,955) were elsewhere (not in daily activity,
employed, nor in education) (Arvidsson et al., 2015).
The population in focus of the current study comprises the
2,745 individuals who were defined as gainfully employed in
2011. The study group represents 15.6% of the women and
27.2% of the men in the total HURPID population (12,269).

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

The Halmstad University Register on Pupils with Intellectual
Disability (HURPID) population, N 5 12,269. Number (n)
and proportion (%). (HURPID 2011)

Distribution of students per graduation year and educational
program stratified by sex (column %). Number (n) and
proportion (%) of the 2,745 students who were gainfully
employed in 2011. (HURPID 2011)


Educational program
Specially designed
Vocational training
Training activities
Incomplete grades
Year of graduation







This implies a difference in employment rates between the sexes

of 11.6% points.
The study population includes former students from all four
types of programs in USSID, as well as students who graduated
with incomplete grades. The population (N 5 2,745) is presented
in Table 2, which shows the distribution of graduation year and
educational program in USSID among the 802 women and 1,943
men in the study.
The type and extent of work among people with ID may
vary considerably, and in this study we use the variable gainful
employment as the outcome variable. People who are defined
as gainfully employed in this study, work full- or part-time and
have either unsubsidized or subsidized employment. The lowest common denominator is that they all had a job during
2011 that generated a salary reported to the Swedish tax agency
and that they neither had daily activities according to LSS (see
above) nor were registered as students. The variable gainful
employment is dichotomous and states whether a person was

Graduation year
USSID program
National program
Specially designed program
Vocational training
Training activities
Incomplete grades



373 46.5 874 47.7 1,247

429 53.5 1,069 52.3 1,498
802 100 1,943 100 2,745
475 59.2 1,200 61.8 1,675
219 27.3 435 22.4 654
2.6 102
5.2 123
86 10.7 206 10.6 292
802 100 1,943 100 2,745

USSID, upper secondary school for pupils with intellectual disability.

gainfully employed or not in 2011, according to the LISA register. No selection has been made regarding the employments
rate or duration.
The explanatory variables are sex, graduation year, and educational program. The graduation year variable shows which year
(20012011) a person graduated USSID. In the analysis, the variable was dichotomized to show if a person graduated between
2001 and 2006 or between 2007 and 2011. By including a variable
describing the number of years since graduation, the impact of
elapsed time is to some extent taken into account.
The variable educational program describes whether a former
student attended a national, a specially designed, an individual
program (vocational training or training activities) or graduated
with incomplete grades.
Data Analysis
Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the participant
characteristics. Binary logistic regression analyses were used to
study the association between the outcome variable gainful
employment and the explanatory variables. The results of the
analyses are presented as odds ratios, indicating the odds for
being gainfully employed compared with the reference group. All
regression analyses were conducted separately for women and
men. Multiple regressions were performed, yielding odds ratios
(95% p-value) adjusted for all explanatory variables.
Pearsons chi-square test was used to analyze differences
between women and men regarding the presence of labor market policy measures and income support. All analyses were
conducted in Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS)
version 20.

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

Crude and adjusted odds ratios (OR) with p-values for
associations between sex, graduation year, educational
program, and and gainful employment (n 5 2,745): results of
binary logistic regression analyses, HURPID 2011

Male (ref.)
Graduation year
20012006 (ref.)
Specially designed
Vocational training
Incomplete grades (ref.)
Nagelkerke R2


(n 5 802)
Model 1a

(n 5 1,943)
Model 1a








OR controlled for graduation year and educational program.

Training activities excluded due to small numbers.
p < .001.
CR, crude odds.

Women and Men With ID Entering the Labor Market
Table 3 presents the associations between sex, graduation
year, educational program, and gainful employment among
women and men in the HURPID population. The educational
program training activities was excluded in the analyses due to
small numbers (see Table 2).
The number of years since graduation had a positive, significant impact on the probability of being gainfully employed (see
Table 3). The bivariate analysis shows that graduates from 2007
to 2011 had a lower probability of being gainfully employed (OR:
0.72). The pattern was slightly enhanced for women and men
(OR: 0.64 and 0.64, respectively) in the multivariate analysis
when adjusted for graduation year and educational program.
The analyses show that students who attended a national program had a higher probability of being gainfully employed (OR:
3.84) in 2011 than those who graduated with incomplete grades
(reference group). The second-highest probability of being gainfully employed were found among those who attended a specially
designed program (OR: 2.87), compared with the reference
group. Results also show that those who attended a vocational
training program had the lowest probability of being gainfully
employed (OR: 0.31) (see Table 3). The impact of the different
educational programs on gainful employment persists; the ORs

did not change significantly in the multivariate analysis when

adjusted for graduation year and educational program.
The impact of a background in various educational programs
differs between women and men. The men in the current study
were more likely to be employed than the women. Differences
regarding the probability of being gainfully employed after
graduation were most clearly pronounced among women and
men from the national programs. Women who graduated from a
national program were three times (OR 3.51) more likely to be
gainfully employed than those who graduated with incomplete
grades (reference group). The corresponding OR for men was
Overall, the analysis shows that men who graduated between
2001 and 2006 and attended a national program in USSID had
the highest probability of being gainfully employed. The analyses
in this study explain 16.2%18.8% of the variation in the
dependent variable gainful employment.
Representation in the Labor Market
Among the 2,745 individuals in the current study, 802
(29.2%) were women and 1,943 (70.8%) were men. They were
all gainfully employed, but the type of employment (unsubsidized
or subsidized) differed.
Unsubsidized employment. Of the 2,745 people included in
the study, 339 people (96 women and 243 men) were gainfully
employed without any type of subsidies. These 339 people were
not enrolled as students, not engaged in any labor market policy
measures designed to promote employment, did not receive any
unemployment benefits, and did not receive any degree of activity- or sickness compensation. Additionally, their employers did
not receive financial support for their employment.
The 339 people correspond to 2.7% of the total HURPID
population (N 5 12,269) and 1.9% (n 5 96) of the 5,131 women
and 3.4% (n 5 243) of the 7,138 men in HURPID. The 339 people represent 12% of the 802 women and 12.5% of the 1,943
men of the gainfully employed (N 5 2,745).
Among the 339 people, 195 (57.5%) attended a national program in USSID, 90 (26.5%) attended a specially designed program, 46 (13.6%) graduated from USSID with incomplete
grades, and 8 people (2.4%) attended an individual program/
vocational training.
Of the 96 women, 70.8% worked in the private sector and
24% in the public sector. The most frequent occupation (36.5%)
was personal care and related work. The 243 men worked primarily in the private sector (93.4%), with the largest proportion
(18.9%) in professions described as other service work (for
example, janitors, garbage collectors, newspaper and package
deliverers). In 2011, the average declared income was SEK 16,887
(USD 2,240) per month among the women and SEK 21,453 (USD
2,850) per month among the men. Thus, the average wage difference between the sexes was SEK 4,566 (USD 610) per month.
Small workplaces in the private sector. In 2011, 28.6% of
the 802 gainfully employed women and 8.8% of the 1,943 gainfully employed men in the current study worked in the public

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

Distribution of gainfully employed women and men with ID
in Sweden by the size of their workplace. Number (n) and
proportion (%). (HURPID 2011)
Number of employees
at the workplace

09 employees
1049 employees
50249 employees
2501 employees






sector. However, most of the jobs available to people with ID are

found in the private sector. Among women, 64.2% worked in the
private sector, and the corresponding proportion among men
was 86.1%. The sector classified as other (which includes
NGOs) employed 7.2% of the women and 5.1% of the men (not
shown in tables).
The gainfully employed people in HURPID are found primarily in small workplaces. Workplaces with up to nine employees employed 33.9% of the women and 37.4% of the men, and
approximately equal proportions were working in companies
with 1049 employees (see Table 4). Equal proportions of women
and men (4.7%) worked for organizations with more than 250
employees (see Table 4).
Table 4 shows the distribution of employees at workplaces of
various sizes. The distribution is stratified by women and men
and the workplace division is based on the size categories used by
Statistics Sweden.
Table 5 shows the five most common occupations among
women and men in the study.

Subsidized employment and income support. In the study

population, the women had an average wage income of SEK
13,260 (USD 1,760) per month, and the men SEK 16,361 (USD
2,170) per month. This yields a difference of SEK 3,101 (USD
410) per month between the average wage incomes, with women
earning 19% less than the men.

Among the women in the study (n 5 802), 64.5% received

some type of labor market policy measure (such as wage subsidies); the corresponding proportion among men (n 5 1,943) was
71.7%. The differences are statistically significant (see Table 6).
Payments in addition to salary intended to compensate individuals who dont work full time are more commonly disbursed
to women than men. Examples of such compensations are activity- and sickness compensation, parental benefit, and unemployment benefit (see Table 6).
Table 6 presents the distribution of a number of common
benefits and compensations within the current population. The
distributions may relate to different degrees of compensation
within each type of benefit. A person can receive more than one
type of benefit at the same time.
Among the women in the study, 20.2% received some degree
of activity compensation. Among the men, the corresponding
proportion was 17%. A total of 42 people received sickness compensation of some degree (2.4% of the women and 1% of the
men), and the difference is statistically significant in terms of
both activity compensation and sickness compensation (see Table
6). Unemployment benefits were disbursed to 6% of the women
and 6.7% of the men in the study.
One reason why it was more common among women than
men to have income support that relates to time out of work
might be that it is still more common for women to stay at home
with a child during their first years of life and when the child
cannot be in daycare or school due to illness. When a child is
born or ill, a parent in Sweden can get parental benefits to be able
to stay home with the child instead of working, studying or seeking employment. In this study, 14% of the women received
parental benefits in 2011, compared to 6.4% of the men. The differences are statistically significant (see Table 6).
Discussion and Conclusion
Among the 12,269 people (41.8% women, 58.2% men) with
ID who graduated Swedish USSIDs between 2001 and 2011,
22.4% (2,745) were gainfully employed in 2011. Among those
2,745 people, 30% were women and 70% men. The majority had
a subsidized employment and only 339 people had obtained
unsubsidized employment.
The factor that appears to be the most important for gainful
employment in the labor market for people with ID is an educational background in a national program. Results also show that

The five most common occupations among gainfully employed women and men with ID in Sweden in 2011. Proportion (%).
(HURPID 2011)
Females top 5


Health and social care staff

Kitchen and restaurant helpers
Staff in industrial kitchens
Animal producers and related workers



Males top 5


Vendors in retail
Building finishers
Machine operator
Building and construction workers
Warehouse and transport clerks


Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

Volume 13 Number 3 September 2016

J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

Distribution of a number of social benefits and allowances among gainfully employed women and men with ID in Sweden
in 2011. Number (n), proportion (%) and chi-square (v2). (HURPID 2011)
Females (n 5 802)
Type of benefit

Activity compensation
Sickness compensation
Parental benefit
Unemployment benefit
Labor market policy employmentb
Labor market policy educationc


Males (n 5 1,943)






A person can receive more than one type of the benefits above at the same time.
For example wage subsidized employment.
For example training allowance/activity support paid by the Swedish Public Employment Service.
*p < .05. ***p < .001.

among women and men, the time elapsed since graduation does
matter. The earlier during the study period a person graduated,
the greater the chance of having a job. Men who attended a
national program and graduated between 2001 and 2006 were
the most likely to be employed in 2011 compared to other people
in the current study.
Methodological Reflection
By stratifying the analysis on gender when studying people
with ID, it could be argued that we contribute to the reproduction of the social construction of gender. But the alternative is to
not deal with gender and to continue to analyze the lives of people with ID as a gender-neutral group; in this light, we think that
it is necessary to use Hardings (1986) theoretical framework in
order to visualize and discuss the existing gendered structures. In
recent decades, there has been nothing radical regarding the
development of gender equality that would necessitate toning
down the need for discussions of the social construction of gender. Although 30 years have passed since Hardings theories were
published, they are still relevant when analyzing the current labor
With the establishment of HURPID, aggregated data is available that allows analyzes of the post-school destinations of people
with ID who graduated from Swedish USSIDs during the first
decade of the 21st century. Analyzes from a gender perspective is
one of the main strengths of this study because disability research
rarely handles categories such as gender. The analyses in the current study are stratified by gender and the results are discussed in
relation to gender theory.
One limitation of this study is the lack of information on
what type of national and specially designed programs the former
students have completed. This data would have provided a more
detailed picture of which educational background most likely
leads to a job. This knowledge would also have given a deeper
understanding of womens and mens roads to the labor market
as women and men tend to attend different types of programs.
The HURPID database will be completed with this data, which

can be found in the final-grade documents, and further analyses

will be performed in future studies.
We are aware of the fact that the character and severity of
ones disability could have an impact on a persons ability to enter
and be represented in the labor market. However, current data
does not contain information about the degree, character, or
severity of the peoples disability or comorbidity of difficulties
beyond the fact that the educational programs are intended for
people with various degrees of ID. The categories of programs
can though, with some caution, be regarded as a proxy for the
degree of a persons disability.
Additionally, the current study does not handle the impact of
factors related to, that is, qualification requirements on the labor
market or the socioeconomic resources that each individual has.
However, we assume that these variables will be of relevance in
the understanding of the challenges of entering the labor market
for women and men with ID and we therefore suggest further
research in this area.
Entry Into Work
In a society where education is an important factor, experiences at school have far-reaching implications for the years after
graduation (Batevik & Myklebust, 2006). As previous research
has demonstrated, the choice of mainstream educational programs is clearly gender segregated (Sandell, 2007). This is also
assumed to be the case for students who choose between USSID
programs. The impact of various educational programs on the
possibility of an employment is assumed to be linked to underlying factors. In the context of the different types of programs, staff
members work in different ways with students, and thus differences occur regarding how well-equipped students are for the labor
market. Mineurs (2013) research shows that teachers and other
staff members in USSIDs work more closely with the labor market with male students than they do with female students. Differences in the probability that women vs. men with ID will be
employed after completing a USSID program may therefore be
explained in part by the types of programs included in the

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J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

categories national and specially designed. The current study only

handles different categories of programs (national, specially
designed, vocational training, training activities, and incomplete
grades). Future research on the HURPID population will analyze
the impact of having attended different types of programs (for
example, vehicle and transport, hotel and restaurant, or health
and social care) in USSID.
In one respect, perceptions about female and male gender
constructions at the symbolic level (Harding, 1986) affect the
educational and professional directions in which young women
and men are expected to move. In addition, there are numerous
assumptions about how young people in general, and youth with
ID specifically, are supposed to act regarding their entry into the
labor market. Young people with ID must strive to meet
demands and expectations as adults and may at the same time,
due to a disability, need support for long periods of their lives. In
addition, approaching a gender-segregated labor market is challenging in a society that is considered gender-neutral from a disability perspective. This paradox can be understood in many
different ways; as L
ovgren (2013) puts it, not to be recognized
as being female and simultaneously living within a world of
female subordination are contradictory, on the one hand as a
double oppression, on the other as liberation from gender
structures (p. 26).
The impact of the elapsed time since graduation, demonstrated by that those who graduated 20012006 being more likely
to have a job than those who graduated 20072011, is presumably
a consequence of an overall extended transition from school to
work among young people today, than in previous eras. In 1990,
the average age of establishment in Sweden was 21 years and today
it is 28 years (Swedish Government Official Report, 2006:102).
But the influence of time on the prevalence of employment
could also be explained by the fact that people with ID may have
taken part in various interventions, services, and forms of support before they either enter the labor market or get into daily
activity. Factors such as changes in the labor market and the economic situation in the society may also have affected the pattern
of the extended transition. However, in a historical perspective
the impact of varying general economic situations has, in fact,
proved to be very limited for people with intellectual disability in
Sweden (S
oder, 1981). Therefore, we do not have reasons to
believe that the economic situation during the period in focus
has had any significant impact on the job prospects for the current population, but it cannot of course be entirely ruled out.
Since the individuals in HURPID graduated during the
period 20012011 and this study analyzes the situation in 2011,
the former students have had various lengths of time to establish
in the labor market. The current study provides a first insight
into the impact of time elapsed since graduation on employment.
Future research on the HURPID population needs to include
deeper analyses on the impact of different types of support, labor
market policy measures as well as different types of income support on the entry in the labor market.
In the Same Labor Market, Under Different Premises
In this study, 339 people were employed without any subsidies. This is not to say that an unsubsidized employment is auto224

matically better than a subsidized one, but in a welfare state like

Sweden, where many different types of employment subsidies are
available, the official statistics can imply that more individuals
have a job on the open labor market than there actually is. That
might in turn give the impression of a minimal need for political
efforts and reforms to help more people with a disability to get
It was found that 22.4% of the total HURPID population was
gainfully employed in 2011. That amount is, in an international
perspective, believed to be lower than in some other countries in
the western world. In a study by Siperstein, Parker, and Drascher
(2013) the employment rate among people with ID in United
States was higher, 34%. However, comparisons between the two
studies can be misleading because the age range in the study by
Siperstein et al. (2013) is larger (aged 2164 years) than in the
current study. Furthermore, the welfare context in Sweden and
the United States differs, the categorization of the group of people with ID varies and variations regarding the character of the
countries labor markets are also thought to impact the employment rates. Future research needs to immerse the comparative
analyses of differences regarding labor market participation for
people with ID internationally.
The analyses in the current study show that employment
rates differ between women and men, as do wage levels and professions. The difference in employment rates between women
and men with ID in the current study is 11.6% points. In Sweden, the difference in employment rates in the general population
(age 1574 years) were 5.4% points in 2011 (Statistics Sweden,
2013). The difference in the population of people with ID thus
follows the same pattern but is more clearly pronounced, even
though a comparison is not entirely possible to do, because Statistics Swedens data refers to the entire working population and
this study refers to a narrower age range.
Our results show that women and men with ID are generally
employees within traditionally defined female and male sectors
and professions. It confirms previous research about people with
ID in Sweden: women worked in traditional female sectors
(. . .), whereas men worked in traditional male roles (UmbCarlsson & Sonnander, 2006, p. 332). In 2011, women with ID
also received various social benefits and allowances in addition to
salary at a higher proportion than men. Women and men relate
to the labor market under unequal conditions, and this might be
explained by the pattern which is found in the general Swedish
population; that low-skilled women and men have lower employment rates, work more part-time, and also work more often in
gender-stereotyped occupations (Nyberg, 2008). It can also be
seen as a result of the general gender order or as a consequence
of todays labor market; many low-skilled women work part-time
simply because few full-time jobs are available (Nyberg, 2012),
and this fact presumably has a bearing for women with ID too.
Differences could also be a result of causes that have not been
investigated in this study.
On the structural level (Harding, 1986) of the labor market,
there are differences regarding gainful employment for young
people with ID. On the basis of the explanatory variables analyzed in the present study, gender is one of the factors explaining
why men with ID more likely are gainfully employed than
women. At the symbolic level (Harding, 1986), values and beliefs
about what is considered masculine and feminine and what is

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J. Arvidsson et al. Work, ID and Gender in Sweden

expected from women and men can be found; this affects the
way they are treated at the structural level in school and in the
labor market.
The conclusion is that the gender segregation of the general
Swedish labor market also affects people with ID. The results are
believed to entail significant impact on the everyday expectations
that women and men with ID face from school, peers, parents,
employers, and others. This is further believed to affect the
employment prospects of those women and men.
The findings imply that knowledge and awareness of the fact
that women and men with ID are treated and handled in very
gender-specific ways in relation to labor need to increase. Analyses of gender factors need to be deepened in future studies on
people with ID and their representation in the labor market. It is
important that education, services and interventions specifically
targeted to meet the needs of people with ID develop in more
gender-sensitive ways. Moreover, schools, authorities, and organizations need to review how to prepare and accommodate
women and men with ID when entering working life, allowing
everyone equal opportunities to find, get, and keep a job. This
study reveals that a small percentage of the people with ID who
have a post-school destination in the labor market are women.
Concerning the importance of work for equal opportunities to
participate in society and good living conditions, material and
socially, this is a situation that needs to be changed.
The authors acknowledge the two reference groups in the
HURPID project that have contributed with perspectives, ideas,
and comments. The first group consists of people who have an
educational background in Swedish USSID. The second reference
group includes representatives of Swedish national authorities,
businesses, and organizations with relevance for people with ID.
The study received financial support from MISA AB, Stockholm,
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