Industry 4.0 is supposed to automate many repetitive tasks, primarily performed by women, hence increasing the qualitative content of their work. Moreover, new technologies can compensate some of the declining physical abilities of an aging workforce and create new working opportunities for disabled or chronically ill workers. However, the under-representation of women in key growth areas (i.e., jobs requiring STEM skills), their concentration in non-standard employment relations and the blurring boundaries between work and private life, as well as the cultural and organisational barriers to the inclusion of migrant and disabled workers in workplaces are raising serious concerns about persisting or even worsening inequalities based on gender, age and ethnic origin. By and large, the old ‘macho’ culture is difficult to get rid of especially in traditionally manual, cumbersome and maledominated industrial settings, where it may create obstacles to safety and reasonable accommodation measures for disabled, ill or elderly workers, digital technologies taking over hazardous tasks and gender equality plans; it may even create avenues for discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. In the age of demographic change, overturning this culture and tailoring work settings to the needs of an increasingly diversified workforce are thus pivotal to create safe, sustainable and flexible workplaces better suited for the future of work.
To deal with this challenge, 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 and training courses and information activities on gender issues; they should raise workers’ awareness of these topics and contrast potential discriminatory conducts based on gender, sexual orientation, age and ethnic or social origin, by signing collective agreements in this field and drafting joint action plans with management. Within the framework of these plans, workers’ reps should make sure that women are adequately represented in workplaces at all levels of the hierarchical structure; they should also negotiate over the introduction of work-life balance initiatives to sustain the work of women, disabled and chronically ill people. Overall, workers’ reps should proactively contribute to the creation of equal organisations and a workplace culture supporting everyone.
- Access to work;
- Collective bargaining on gender issues;
- Career development;
- Wage policy;
- Health and safety at work;
- Contrast to harassment;
- Contrast to gender violence;
- Awareness-raising campaigns;
Further information at https://stoppamachokulturen.nu.