The greatest difference between the countries studied was in the actual numbers of persons with disabilities employed in the sheltered sector and in its relative size. In India, 3 000 persons are employed in sheltered workshops out of an economically active population of over 300 million (though the figure may not reflect those in the large number of undeclared small enterprises), by contrast with 27 000 in Sweden out of an economically active population of about 4 million. Comparing European countries only, Samoy and Waterplas claimed rates in 1992 from under 0.1 to over 12 per thousand of the active population, for a total of some 500 000 disabled workers (Samoy and Waterplas, 1992, table on p. 4). Most workers in the sheltered sector are persons with disabilities; the percentage of non-disabled workers (mostly employed in some supervisory capacity) typically ranged between 5 and 25 per cent.
However, in Poland the situation is unusual, with only 122 000 disabled workers in a total sheltered workforce of about 200 000; this anomalous situation arises because any enterprise with a workforce of at least 40 per cent disabled persons (or even 30 per cent if they are visually impaired) is eligible for sheltered employment status. The proportion of men in sheltered employment is consistently higher than that of women, constituting an average of 60 to 70 per cent of the total (even 80 per cent in Switzerland). There are few statistics on the age distribution of disabled workers, but the scant data available do show a wide variation from “young” in Costa Rica, where 90 per cent of disabled persons working in sheltered workshops are under 40, to “intermediate” in Australia, where about a third are in the age groups of under 30, 30-39, 40 and over, respectively, and finally to “older” in Sweden, where the average age of disabled workers in sheltered employment is 46. The population in sheltered workshops tends to be older in those countries with longer experience and larger numbers.