Globally inclusion possess concerns on how to ensure that the future of work is inclusive, whereas leaving no one behind, for the over one billion persons with disabilities (PWDs). Ensuring an inclusive future of work is part of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is worth noting that article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right of PWDs to work on an equal basis with others. Furthermore, the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted in June 2019 highlights the necessity for a human-centred approach and incorporates an explicit reference to the need to ensure equal opportunities and treatment for PWDs.
Besides, the rights-based approach towards PWDs reflected in the 2030 Agenda aligns with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD further provides for an important framework for promoting inclusion and equal opportunities for PWDs, also in the world of work. However, the inequalities experienced in the world of work for women with disabilities (WWDs) remain significant and need to be addressed.
It is worth noting that, employability data for WWDs are hard to obtain locally, and where data is available the labour market participation rate of WWDs is lower than that of the general population. The situation of women with disabilities is wanting. With the foreseeable changes in the future labour market, this gap could widen further, and action must therefore be taken to ensure inclusive technological amenities are availed. What is more, WWDs constitute a source of talent for employment and for the development of new products and services. Nonetheless, they face challenges that hamper their ability to complete and contribute equally to national economic development due to existing barriers. This could be attributed to lack of accessible websites for information access, lack of assistive devices as well as non-inclusive education and vocational training leading to lower levels of education and training among WWDs. As such, this is a violation to their rights which has a negative effect on the economy considering the value WWDs could generate if employed since most of them opt to be entrepreneurs.
To this end, if WWDs, are to reap the benefits of the megatrends of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that includes; digitalization, artificial intelligence, the use of biometrics, automation, robotics and big data, as the driving forces of the labour market, inclusive infrastructure ought to be put in place. Secondly, an understanding on the technological revolution will affect the jobs of tomorrow and will require different skills from those of today implying that much more on capacity building can be invested upon to ensure that WWDs are up-skilled.
Consequently, in a society where knowledge will be easier to acquire, transversal skills will become much more relevant, as content and know-how will permanently be updated. This requires that at all levels policy makers and implementers devise programmes that are relevant for WWDs. This will go along well in building the capacity of the WWDs to embrace the cultural change within the work environment that will alter the preferences, needs and demands of the tech-driven work space. This necessitates that responsible labour relations, work/life balance social values and sustainability be embedded within organizations inclusively. The technological driven transformations in the future of work entail risks for WWDs, but they also offer opportunities to re-think inclusion and act inclusion. Therefore, to mitigate risks and maximise the opportunities provided for by technologies, measures must be urgently put in place, which are favorable for WWDs. What is more, it is essential that WWDs play an active role in decision-making concerning future employment policies as well as the implementation of the technological infrastructure.
Conclusively, misconceptions about work and disability continues to persist, including the lack of equal opportunities and guidelines for hiring WWDs which could lead to loss of productivity and tapping and nurturing into their talents equitably. Creating an enabling and facilitative environment for WWDs, will in the long-run develop skills such as perseverance, problem-solving, agility, forethought, innovative thinking and willingness to experiment in order to adapt to the world around them. All these skills are key to facing tomorrow’s reality and contribute to provide societal solutions that are tech-driven. Therefore, Governments, companies, trade unions and academia must be encouraged to commit and contribute towards investing in inclusive infrastructure and instituting systems that support WWDs transition to the future of work. An inclusive future of work can be reached through coordination and alliances among the different stakeholders.