Diversity is desirable; we know this. It is intrinsically linked to principles of fairness and respect, equality and human rights; with its arch nemesis Discrimination outlawed by state legislation and workplace regulation. This is not, however, why work will be inclusive in the near future: Inclusivity will be a matter of economic necessity. Why? Here follow two sample supporting arguments: one highlights a global megatrend; the other a sector-specific case study.
Firstly, according to the Global AgeWatch Index, the number of older persons (aged 60 years or over) is expected to more than double to 2.1bn by 2050, exceeding the number of children and constituting 21.5% of the population (1 in 5). In fact, in Switzerland, older persons already make up almost 1 in every 4 people (24%). This demographic cannot be ignored: either as human resource in itself, with people working later in life and organisations becoming increasingly age-friendly; or as a community of retirees dependent on the shrinking proportion of people in employment, whose rising productivity targets call for optimal labour levels.
Secondly, certain job markets are almost in crisis. Take for example the case of the construction industry in the UK, stuck with an image problem as the near-exclusive domain of middle-aged white males. At the last count, the sector was found to employ 2.1M people – enough to fill 262,500 double-decker buses – and yet, it is struggling with a looming skills gap, under pressure to find an additional 224,000 new hires by 2019. As well as attracting poor levels of young starters, school leavers, students and apprentices, plus a below-average proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers, it is failing to recruit women. In terms of diversity, women make up 46% of the overall UK workforce but represent just 14.5% of the total in construction and a mere 1.2% in trades. For Construction, therefore, embracing Inclusivity is a must, not a mere nice-to-have.
This is why, in the future, work will be inclusive.
Tomorrow, a 5th Mystery Word: Why Life will be… ?
‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.
Sad to say, we are familiar with documentary features and stories on the news that speak of the plight of refugees. Stored in digital broadcast archives of Western media sources and scorched into the mind’s eye of the viewing and reading public will be a scar-tissue library of disturbing images of human flight, suffering and ultimately death.
This travelogue of horrors, comprises postcards from hellspots across the globe: From the famine-wracked Ethiopia of the 1980s and drought-riven Somalia of today; through war-ravaged Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Sudan, Darfur in particular; then on into scenes of political oppression and social unrest in Zimbabwe, Burma, the Yemen and most recently Syria.
The victims of economic, environmental and social discrimination are legion, with literally millions of migrants on the run from unsustainable situations and circumstances.
Moreover, the demographers of doom are forecasting still worse fates to follow. Already, according to research and reports commissioned by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there are around 25M ‘climate refugees’, with figures for future scenarios suggesting there could be as many as 150M or more by 2050. Rising sea levels threaten to redraw the coastlines of low-lying nations such as Thailand, India and Bangladesh, plus erase the Maldives from the map entirely. The sheer scale of the problem and rapid pace of impact change is more than just daunting, it is frightening to the point of empathetic paralysis. What on Earth can we do?
3D Vision: The People View
Never mind what we can do, first let us ask how we should feel. Connected. Restoring a sense of perspective and personal resonance is paramount to being able to face our fears. In short, we need a coherent vision of the world and our place in it.
To keep calm and connected calls for the ability to consider refugees in 3D, to see people, not just problems. Sustainability demands that we think and talk in 3D and the language of unsustainable ‘Discrimination’ is seemingly littered with ‘D’-words. Our 3D lexicon of Discrimination comprises: Economic ‘D’-words, such as Disadvantage, Deprivation and Decline; Environmental ‘D’-words, the like of Degradation, Destruction, Disaster, Depletion, Desertification and Drought; plus many examples of Social ‘D’-words including Disconnect(ion), Disenfranchisement, Dislocation, Disengagement and Displacement. Some words, such as ‘Depression’ contextually cross-contaminate. Others, like ‘Distress’ spread themselves in full-blown viral 3D.
To connect the words is to connect the ideas. To connect the ideas is to connect the people. Connection is Community.
Communities and Connection
Connections between the youth draining out of some rural communities in County Cork, Ireland, with those who have lost livelihoods through the shocking shrinkage of the Aral Sea are more than just intellectual: Real people and real problems are common to both parts of the world, as they are to all.
Now, let us be clear: Nobody is saying that migration as a result of the closure of a major manufacturing plant is the equivalent of fleeing militias with machine guns and machetes. Of course, the experiences of inhabitants of post-industrial Detroit and bloody, brutal Darfur are not the same. Viewed in 3D, however, those two places do represent different points on the same scale. A common element connects Detroit and Darfur: People.
It is conceivable that the jobless steelworker stuck in a bedsit feels alienated and alone to the same degree as the orphan in a Red Cross camp. Each desperately needs compassion and a sense of connectedness: Each is lost, each a refugee.
Refugees in 3D populate the globe: We all know some; some of us know nothing else. Time to put our 3D glasses on.
Further reading and viewing:
Detroit: Haunting photos of crumbling neighbourhoods highlight the terrible decline of America’s once-great Motor City (Daily Mail article) – a more extensive library of remarkable images of urban decay is available to view direct on the website of photographers Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre
Darfur: Background to the relief work being undertaken in Sudan by the independent charitable aid organisation Save The Children, plus latest bulletin updates
IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, assessments, facts and figures