ILO report on digital economy for people with disabilities released
The report, An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities, was prepared by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) and the Spanish disability NGO Fundación ONCE.
Advances in the digital economy, significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are creating unprecedented opportunities to build a more inclusive world of work for the more than 1 billion people with disabilities globally, a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) says.
However, digital barriers also threaten to aggravate existing inequalities and exclusion, unless they are countered with effective and targeted initiatives, as highlighted by the study.
The report, An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities, was prepared by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) and the Spanish disability NGO Fundación ONCE. It looks at the effects of the digital revolution on the creation of new jobs, changes to existing roles and work models, as well as online recruitment processes. It also highlights key areas for action by different groups of stakeholders, including the digital industry, academia, governments, workers and employers, and people with disabilities themselves.
The report highlights three main levers for creating a more inclusive digital labour market for persons with disabilities: ensuring accessibility, fostering digital skills and promoting digital employment.
The increase in digital work creates acute problems for those without the necessary skills or equipment, the study says, pointing out that, due to persistent exclusion, people with disabilities generally have lower levels of education and training than their peers without disabilities.
Hence, reskilling and upskilling will be key to building an inclusive future of work, alongside initiatives to foster digital employment and support collaboration between relevant stakeholders. Assistive technologies (AT) could also open up new occupations and opportunities. However, the report warns that a lack of accessible AT could create new barriers because without it many essential digital tools will not be usable by people with disabilities.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends already present in the world of work, including the expansion of the digital economy," said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO's Conditions of Work and Equality Department. "We must ensure that we direct this trend so that it supports an inclusive future of work in which the talents and skills of persons with disabilities can contribute to the success of workplaces and societies worldwide."
"In order to leave no one behind, the technological revolution which we are living, and which has been accelerated by the pandemic, needs to ensure an inclusive design for people with disabilities, so prevent it being a barrier for them," emphasized Fernando Riaño, Director of Institutional Relations and Social Responsibility in the ONCE Social Group, of which Fundación ONCE is a part.
The report was published at the Zero Project Conference, the largest annual disability-specific meeting, which this year was held virtually on 10 February, with the theme "Employment and ICT". Its aim is to increase awareness of the way an increasingly digital world of work is affecting those with disabilities and identify how the future of work can be shaped to be more inclusive. It was developed within the framework of Disability Hub Europe, a project led by Fundación ONCE and co-funded by the European Social Fund.
The current report builds on the 2019 publication Making the Future of Work inclusive of persons with disabilities, prepared for the 2019 ILO GBDN conference on the Future of Work.