Where do autistic people work? The distribution and predictors of occupational sectors of autistic and general population employees

Yael Goldfarb, Franziska Assion, Sander Begeer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research on employment outcomes of autistic adults mainly assessed if they work and under what terms, with mostly anecdotal descriptions of where they work. This study aimed to identify the employment sector distribution of autistic employees compared to the general workforce in the Netherlands and to explore possible background predictors. Participants were 1115 employed autistic adults (476 male; 627 female; 12 other; mean age: 40.75) who completed a cross-sectional survey assessing employment sector, gender, age, age at diagnosis, educational level, degree of autistic traits, and presence of focused interests. Dutch workforce data were retrieved from the Central Bureau of Statistics. Results indicated significant differences in sector distribution across the two populations. Autistic adults were over-represented in the sectors healthcare & welfare, information technology, and public–army–charity, which were the three most-common sectors for this group. In economics & finances, and industry & construction, higher proportions were found in the general workforce. Most autistic employees in the healthcare & welfare sector were females while having a higher educational degree and being male predicted placement in information technology. The broad distribution of autistic employees beyond the information technology sector was notable, supporting the need for an individual approach to employment integration. Lay Abstract: Studies on employment of autistic individuals mainly assessed if they work and what their working conditions are (e.g. weekly hours, salary) while less is known about where they work. We explore this issue in our study, by examining which employment sectors do autistic adults work in, and comparing them to the general workforce in the Netherlands. We also explored the possibility that gender, age, age at diagnosis, level of education, degree of autistic traits and presence of focused interests could lead to a higher likelihood of working in specific sectors. We assessed data from a survey filled in by 1115 employed autistic adults (476 male; 627 female; 12 other; mean age: 40.75). Dutch workforce information was based on data form the Central Bureau of Statistics. Results showed that a higher proportion of autistic employees worked in healthcare & welfare, information technology, and the public–army–charity sectors. These were the three most-common sectors for this group. A lower proportion of autistic employees worked in economics & finances, and industry & construction, compared to the general workforce. Most autistic employees in the healthcare & welfare sector were females while having a higher educational degree and being male increased the chance of working in information technology. In addition to the common impression that most autistic individuals have interests or abilities that align with employment in information technology and technology sectors, we found that autistic employees worked in various sectors. It is important to address individual characteristics and needs of autistic individuals, while encouraging diverse employment opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • adults
  • autism
  • autistic adults
  • employment
  • occupational sectors
  • vocational/labor force participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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