What opportunities and risks does the
digitised working world hold with regard to including the disabled? What
measures need to be taken to ensure that no one is left behind? These and other
questions about the impact of a digitised working world on the disabled are
explored in the “An inclusive digital economy for the disabled” report by the Global Business network of the International
Labour Organisation (ILO) and the ONCE Fundación.
The report (only available in English) was
produced as part of the Disability
Hub Europe, which aims to promote inclusive and sustainable business in
Europe whilst simultaneously promoting the both labour and social inclusions of
A brief summary of the status quo shows
that the employment quota for the disabled is still significantly lower than
the quota for people without disabilities. It is 50.8 percent for the 20 - 64
age group as compared to 75 percent for people without disabilities (based on
2018 data). Women with disabilities are frequently even more disadvantaged, as
their employment quota is only 47.8 per cent as compared to 54.3 per cent for
their male counterparts.
It should be noted that this might not
reflect the actual employment situation, as many people with disabilities are
not registered as unemployed. The coronavirus crisis further intensifies these
inequalities. The disabled, who have already experienced exclusion from
employment before the crisis, are more likely to lose their jobs and face
greater difficulties in returning to work.
Opportunities and barriers in the digitised working world
On the one hand, digitisation enables the
disabled to access employment 'directly' via online recruitment platforms.
Digital tools can support daily tasks in the workplace. New digital workplaces
offer a range of new employment opportunities that could also be of interest to
On the other, digital barriers threaten to
thwart these opportunities and intensify existing inequalities and exclusions
unless they are countered by effective and targeted initiatives. This has
already started with the lack of access to necessary education and training to
qualify for new digital jobs. Barriers could also arise in relation to job
applications, because the disabled are more often unable to afford the Internet
and the necessary information and communication technology and therefore, are
prevented from accessing online recruitment processes or company recruitment
The increasing use of AI in recruitment
processes could also pose additional problems for the disabled, such as facial
movements and voice analyses during personality or recruitment tests that will
disproportionately screen out people with disabilities. However, obstacles can
also arise during digital collaboration due to the lack of accessibility to
necessary digital working tools, such as the lack of subtitling systems for
collaborating with deaf people.
Promoting inclusive digital labour markets
The report also highlights the three main
levers for creating inclusive digital labour markets for the disabled: ensuring
accessibility, promoting digital skills and digital employment. Ensuring
accessibility and promoting digital skills are the key to the inclusion of the
disabled in the working world.
It is also important to ensure that digital
employment initiatives include the disabled. The disabled should be included in
initiatives to promote digital employment with appropriate working conditions
in post-COVID-19 pandemic reconstruction measures.
In view of the stagnating employment
situation, it will be interesting to see what measures the new EU 2021 - 2030
strategy for the disabled, which is expected in March, will include to achieve
inclusive labour markets.