Demographic change involves an increasing number of older adults in society and workplaces. However, research demonstrates that elderly possess many abilities (e.g., independent decision-making, system knowledge and understanding, interdisciplinary thinking, etc.) that are needed for Industry 4.0 and that, on the other hand, new technologies can compensate some of the declining physical abilities of an aging workforce; the challenge is thus to tailor work settings to the needs of elderly. Similar considerations can also be made concerning disabled people, for whom modern technologies can create new opportunities in the workplace. Serious challenges are though raised by the projections of future increases in disease events. Indeed, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the absolute number of cancer cases in the 28-EU Countries is expected to rise due to demographic effects from 2.75 million in 2015 to over 3.1 million cases per year by 2025.
To deal with these challenges, workers’ reps should make sure new work settings are designed by integrating the demographic perspective; periodical assessments of individual workers’ tasks and abilities can allow planning their career development according to their specific needs, by also benefiting from the
introduction of new technologies. Workers’ reps should also promote prevention measures against the risk of chronic diseases at work; they should raise workers’ awareness of the topic and contrast potential discriminatory conducts; they should engage in a dialogue with management and other relevant stakeholders on how to increase employment opportunities also for people with chronic illness.