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The Variation in Disability Benefits Received Around the World

  • Date: 2012/10/11 (Rev. 2018/04/22)
  • Laura Chapman
  • Synopsis : Examples of how the provision of disability benefits varies by country and continent.

Main Document

A report published by the World Health Organization and World Bank last year - "World Report on Disability" - estimated that over one billion people around the world live with a disability, with almost 80% of these living in low-income countries. Health costs associated with living with a disability tend to be higher, with a 50% greater chance of incurring huge health costs, which in many cases can be enough to push people below the poverty line.

The United Nations document "Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities" outlines how all countries are responsible for the provision of income maintenance for citizens living with a disability to ensure that they can cover their living costs for as long as necessary; though it goes on to say that these benefits should not discourage them from seeking work and should be reduced if income allows for it. Provision of disability benefits available varies widely from country to country; here we look at an example from each continent.

The Americas - Brazil

To qualify for a disability pension in Brazil, citizens must be unable to work as a result of their disability and have contributed for at least a year into the social insurance scheme, though this is unnecessary if disability occurs as the result of a work-related accident.

Through the disability pension they receive - thirteen payments made over the year - the equivalent of their total average earnings, or the total amount of the minimum wage if they were a rural worker.

The minimum monthly disability pension that can be received is 545 reais (1 US$ = 2.03 reais) - equivalent to the minimum monthly wage - which rises to a monthly maximum of 3691.74 reais. However, to receive disability benefit - a form of social assistance - the amount their family earns in a month must be less than 25% of the legal minimum wage for a person during the same period, which is 136.25 reais; this monthly benefit is 545 reais.

Free care is provided by government hospitals in Brazil, however, these are very crowded and to take advantage of the excellent facilities in Brazil's private hospitals, medical insurance would have to be paid.

Europe - Germany

A disability pension is available in Germany to those with a disability, who are unable to work more than 3 hours each day, but they must have at least five years of contributions to the social security scheme; a partial disability pension is also available for those unable to work more than six hours in a day.

The average disability pension in Germany is 8,850 annually (1 US$ = 0.78 ), though is determined by previous earnings. A nationwide health insurance scheme allows access to treatment at no cost or a small contribution.

Africa - Kenya

Disability benefit is only available in Kenya if a person is assessed as being incapable of doing any form of work.

The amount they receive is a lump sum, which is dependent on the contributions they and their employer have made during their time in work. This payout is equivalent to 60 months of their salary, paid up to a maximum value of 240,000 shillings (1 US$ = 85.1 shillings).

Free hospital treatment is provided for some medical conditions in government hospitals and for people not covered by health insurance, they are able to receive free additional treatment if they have made contributions to the National Social Security Fund. If insured they can receive treatment elsewhere, where a refund of up to 396,000 shillings is available annually.

Asia - China

If a person in China is no longer able to work through a disability, they are able to receive 40% of what was their monthly wage through a social insurance scheme.

The minimum disability pension that can be received is determined by the government of the local province, county or city and is dependent on the local cost of living.

A social insurance fund is able to help cover the costs of medical treatment, providing an amount between 10% and 600% of the local annual wage.

Oceania - Australia

In Australia if you are unable to work as a result of disability, you might be entitled to a disability support pension, which is received fortnightly and depends on your current income and assets, unless you are permanently blind.

A single adult over 21 can receive $712 or $536.7 if part of a couple (1 US$ = 0.98 AUD); this does not include an additional $60.6 as a pension supplement to help towards the cost of household essentials.

Additional hardship provisions can be made for people in extreme financial difficulty.

It is possible to continue to receive the disability support pension once they resume work if their income falls below a threshold.

If earning less than $1697.2 as an individual or $2597.6 as a couple in a fortnight they remain eligible for some help, though once fortnightly income rises above $152 and $268 a reduction in payments occurs - equivalent to 50 cents for each dollar earned over the aforementioned amount.

Various disability support pensions are also available for those under 21, irrespective of whether they live with their parents or not.

If claiming a disability support pension, it is also possible to receive a pharmaceutical allowance to help towards the cost of buying prescription medications.

Healthcare in Australia is funded through contribution to their Medicare scheme, but those people with a disability are entitled to greater assistance through this.

For anyone working whose disability prevents them using public transport, they can also claim a mobility allowance if they need to travel to work, training or are seeking work; this is not means tested, but the amount they receive depends on the situation around their working needs.

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