Pilot study „Chances and barriers for highly skilled persons with disabilities at the transition to the labor market“


By signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Germany agreed to promote autonomy, ensure accessibility as well as equal opportunities in all areas of society, including education, work and employment. But there is a lack of research on the implementation of the CRPD regarding the labor market participation of the highly skilled. Most of the existing studies are hands-on projects and not systematically evaluated. Thus the present pilot study is the first to explore the state of inclusion of highly skilled persons with disabilities in Germany. Barriers and urgent needs for action are identified from several perspectives.


Different sources of information are integrated: Labor market statistics and statistics on the situation of university students with disabilities are analyzed. A literature research is conducted to identify whether political stakeholders and employers are aware of the potential of highly skilled persons with disabilities as a manpower reserve. Results of semi-structured expert interviews (N = 74) and a future workshop (N = 20) both conducted with diverse stakeholders from the field are analyzed using content analysis.


Statistics on university students with disabilities show that an important percentage (7%) of university students has some kind of disability. 94 percent of these disabilities are not visible at first sight. Labor market statistics reveal a lack of inclusion of the target group. In addition, political stakeholders and employers do not consistently regard highly skilled people with disabilities as a manpower reserve. Expert interviews and the results of a future workshop show that psychological barriers mainly caused by insecurities and lack of information on both sides play a major role as well as bureaucracy relating to the employment of persons with disabilities.


Public awareness for the existence of highly skilled people with disabilities has to be raised and a broader understanding of disability has to be established to counteract psychological barriers. Political stakeholders can contribute by promoting university graduates with disabilities as high performers so that prospective employers will recognize that it can be profitable to employ them. Bureaucracy has to be reduced to increase the motivation for inclusion.

Commissioned by: Aktion Mensch

Project run time: 09/2012 – 04/2013

Project management: Prof. Dr. Mathilde Niehaus

Contact: Jana Bauer, jana.bauer@uni-koeln.de