Protecting Working-Age People with Disabilities: Experiences of Four Industrialized Nations


Richard V. Burkhauser

Nicolas Ziebarth

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2015-08 | June 1, 2015

Although industrialized nations have long provided public protection to working-age individuals with disabilities, the form has changed over time. The impetus for change has been multifaceted: rapid growth in program costs; greater awareness that people with impairments are able and willing to work; and increased recognition that protecting the economic security of people with disabilities might best be done by keeping them in the labor market. We describe the evolution of disability programs in four countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. We show how growth in the receipt of publicly provided disability benefits has fluctuated over time and discuss how policy choices played a role. Based on our descriptive comparative analysis we summarize shared experiences that have the potential to benefit policymakers in all countries.

Article Citation

Daly, Mary C., Nicolas Ziebarth, and Richard V. Burkhauser. 2015. “Protecting Working-Age People with Disabilities: Experiences of Four Industrialized Nations,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2015-08. Available at

About the Author
Mary C. Daly
Mary C. Daly is president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Learn more about Mary C. Daly