All aboard: building a more diverse and equitable transport workforce


20 May
09:00 to 10:30
Hall 3, Level +1

The transport sector is evolving to meet the challenges of tackling climate change in an increasingly digitalised context. As countries commit to net-zero carbon economies, decarbonisation goals must be guided by inclusion and a just transition for transport workers. Standards and other initiatives can ensure that the transport workforce is diverse and equitable, and that transport workers are able to develop the knowledge and skills to design and deliver future transport services. With a collaborative approach, it is possible to provide access to decent work in the transport sector for all segments of society.

The combination of an ageing workforce and a lack of investment in skills, health and safety, and decent work has resulted in a chronic shortage of transport workers. These challenges are more acute in the wake of the pandemic, which illustrated the mismatch between the value of essential work, and investment in transport workers. The international labour standards and core principles of the fundamental rights at work provide a guiding framework for addressing these challenges. These principles include equality of opportunity and treatment, health and safety, vocational training, and collective bargaining. These are all necessary to improve working conditions for the transport workforce, and level the playing field to make the workforce more diverse and equitable.

Partnerships that involve governments, employers, and workers promote co-operation and have resulted in agreements that will be beneficial in attaining this goal. For example, the Women in Rail Agreement, between the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the European Transport Worker’ Federation (ETF) is a legally binding agreement aimed at improving working conditions to attract more women to the rail industry. The agreement includes policies for more transparency in job application processes, retention policies that support training and a healthy balance between career and family, and a framework to measure how effectively the agreement achieves its targets. 

Technology can make work safer and more rewarding, provided that the focus of innovation is on improving workers’ lives rather than on cost-cutting. As the future of the sector is increasingly digital and requires new skills, it is important that digitalisation is human-focused and supports a just transition for workers. Providing opportunities for lifelong learning and reskilling and upskilling can improve workforce retention. This can be a challenge, especially in places where the transport workforce is primarily comprised of small and medium-sized enterprises, or owner-operated enterprises. Programs such as Brazil’s Despoluir have effectively engaged the workforce to understand their needs, and employers to provide training opportunities and disseminate technical content.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration also plays a key role in creating a just transition for transport workers. One initiative fostering multi-stakeholder collaboration is the Just Transition Maritime Task Force, a partnership between the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The taskforce will focus on the development of the new skills needed to support decarbonisation efforts in the maritime industry. Initiatives that meaningfully engage workers, employers, and governments in decarbonisation and digitalisation efforts will build a more diverse and equitable transport workforce. 


Alette Van Leur

Director of the Sectoral Policies Department

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Bruno Batista de Barros Martins

Executive Director

National Confederation of Transport, Brazil

Stephen Cotton

General Secretary

International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

Alberto Mazzola

Executive Director

Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER)

All aboard: building a more diverse and equitable transport workforce