Shifting Perspectives: Accessibility, Inclusion, and the Impact of Automation and Digitalisation on Jobs

This article highlights key knowledge and WE-TRANSFORM project discoveries presented at the EUCAD in Brussels during the session on "Empowering society: the transition towards inclusive CCAM solutions."

In today's rapidly evolving world, accessibility and inclusion have become crucial topics of discussion. However, many still view these concepts as expensive and impractical endeavours. It is essential to shift our mindset and recognize accessibility as an opportunity for cost savings and operational gains. Moreover, inclusion should not be treated as a mere footnote but rather as a core principle that requires continuous effort and commitment. In this article, we explore the insights gained from the WE-TRANSFORM project, focusing on automation, digitalisation, and their impact on the transport workforce, while emphasizing the importance of regulations, job dynamics, and ethical considerations.

>> Redefining Accessibility and Inclusion:

Accessibility is often met with scepticism, but it holds tremendous potential for positive transformation. Rather than perceiving it as a financial burden, we should recognize the cost and operational advantages it brings. By shifting the conversation to what can be achieved through accessibility, we can overcome barriers and discover new opportunities.

>> Understanding Inclusion as a Continuous Process:

Inclusion is not a static state but an ongoing process that requires sustained efforts. It involves not only addressing basic structural elements but also fostering a commitment to inclusion throughout organizations. This commitment, in turn, necessitates external pressure, such as regulations, to ensure compliance. However, it is essential to recognize that regulations can also serve as leverage, opening doors to new possibilities and encouraging innovative approaches.

>> Insights on Automation and Jobs:

The WeTransform project delves into the impact of automation and digitalization on the transport workforce. Contrary to the common perception that automation will lead to job loss, it is important to consider the broader picture. Automation deployment entails a chain of interconnected tasks, and while some jobs may be at risk, others will gain prominence. It is not solely about job loss; it also involves job offshoring, the creation of new roles, and the importance of existing jobs.

>> The Role of Human Factors:

Despite advancements in automation, human oversight remains crucial. Automated systems struggle to handle human ambiguity, uncertainty, and ignorance effectively. Public transport workers, for instance, will become even more vital in navigating these challenges. They possess the skills and adaptability necessary to ensure the seamless operation of automated and digitalized systems.

>> Beyond Technical Skills:

Ethical Considerations and Social Dialogue: Automation is not just about technology; it also demands ethical considerations. As we rely more on automated systems, the issue of workers' rights and liability comes to the forefront. Human workers should not become scapegoats for the failures of automated systems. To address these concerns, social dialogue becomes imperative. In the European Union, social dialogue stands as a pillar of social cohesion and provides a critical source for the ethical governance of automated systems.

>> New opportunities:

The focus should not solely be on the immediate loss of jobs due to automation and digitalization. However, the impact of an ageing population and growing migratory pressures on the workforce. While job loss can have negative consequences, it also presents opportunities for demand-responsive transport, particularly during off-peak hours. The importance of retasking and reimagining industries to create new jobs is crucial, particularly for individuals currently employed in manufacturing. The need for retraining and reskilling have to be a top priority of the broader job discussion.

In a world where technology rapidly shapes our lives, accessibility and inclusion must be at the forefront of our considerations. By shifting our perspective from viewing them as impractical to recognizing the opportunities they offer, we can unlock the full potential of these concepts. Automation and digitalization undoubtedly impact jobs, but the picture is more nuanced than simply predicting job loss. By embracing a holistic approach, valuing human oversight, and promoting ethical considerations, we can navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by automation while ensuring the well-being and rights of workers.


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