The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

PLoS One. 2015 Oct 7;10(10):e0139896. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139896. eCollection 2015.


Background: Despite an ambition from adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to be employed, there are limited opportunities for competitive employment for this group. Employment is not only an entitlement enjoyed by others in society, but employing adults with ASD also has economic benefits by decreasing lost productivity and resource costs for this group. Few studies have explored the cost-benefit ratio for employing adults with ASD and even fewer have taken the viewpoint of the employer, particularly applying this situation to ASD. Until such study occurs, employers may continue to be reluctant to employ adults from this group.

Objective: This review aimed to examine the costs, benefits and the cost-benefit ratio of employing adults with ASD, from a societal perspective and from the perspective of employers.

Methods: Eight databases were searched for scientific studies within defined inclusion criteria. These databases included CINAHL Plus, Cochrane Library, Emerald, Ovid Medline, ProQuest, PsycINFO, Scopus and Web of Science.

Results and conclusion: Enhancing the opportunities for adults with ASD to join the workforce is beneficial from a societal perspective, not only from an inclusiveness viewpoint, but also from a strict economic standpoint. Providing supported employment services for adults with ASD does not only cut the cost compared with providing standard care, it also results in better outcomes for adults with ASD. Despite the fact that ASD was the most expensive group to provide vocational rehabilitation services for, adults with ASD have a strong chance of becoming employed once appropriate measures are in place. Hence, rehabilitation services could be considered as a worthwhile investment. The current systematic review uncovered the fact that very few studies have examined the benefits, the costs and the cost-benefit ratio of employing an adult with ASD from the perspective of employers indicating a need for this topic to be further explored.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Employment / economics*
  • Government Programs / economics
  • Humans
  • Social Support

Grants and funding

This research was supported by funding from Australian Postgraduate award scholarship to Melissa Scott from the Australian Federal Government and Curtin University. The candidate acknowledges the financial support of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism CRC), established and supported under the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centre Program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.