Unique challenges for returning to the workforce: Women with chronic illness or disabilities

What are the conditions for returning to the workforce for women with a disability or chronic illness? This is the motivating question behind a new empirical study led by Professor Dr. Ingrid Jungwirth, in collaboration with the vocational training centre Westmünsterland Ahaus and with the support of project member Dr des. Marzyieh Bakhshizadeh. The project aims to shed light on this issue by analysing conditions which both favour and inhibit the return of women with chronic health issues or disabilities to the workforce, in particular in the Münsterland region of Germany.

The employment rate for people with a disability is significantly less than for people without a disability. Gender differences are an additional factor. This study examines disability not as an individual fate, but rather as a social construction that must be addressed through social efforts. To develop suitable intervening measures, the study seeks new insight into the employment situation of women with a disability or chronic illness in the Münsterland region. The methodological implementation of the study involves a combined approach with statistical data evaluation on the one hand, and an evaluation of qualitative data on the other.

To that end, qualitative interviews will be held with counselling experts who work with women with disabilities, as well as with important disseminators in order to form a picture of relevant conditions on the job market. A multidimensional analytical approach within the framework of the sociology of life courses will be used to investigate the interplay between gender relations and the job market with respect to the educational and career trajectories of women with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Project lead

Professor Dr Ingrid Jungwirth

Professor for Social Sciences with a focus on Diversity and Inclusion


Project member

Dr des. Marziyeh Bakhshizadeh

Research Assistant, Gender and Diversity B.A.


Project partner

Vocational Training Centre Westmünsterland, Ahaus

Dipl.-Psy. Sonja Schaten

Promotion of Professional Development / Projects



January to May 2018