Public Transport: Shortage Crisis threatens Jobs of the Future and Demands Action

1 Mar 2024

New reports by the European Commission’s Expert Group on Urban Mobility (EGUM) paint a concerning picture of a 40% rise in driver shortages across Europe since 2020, leaving the continent with a gap of 105,000 drivers. This crisis, fueled by an ageing workforce and competition from other sectors, threatens the smooth operation of public transport systems, which are vital for our cities’ future.

The good news is that public transport holds immense potential for job creation: doubling investment in the sector could create 2.5 million additional jobs worldwide, rising to 5 million when considering the broader economic impact. However, this potential hinges on making public transport jobs attractive, well-paid, and offering good contracts. European Transport Federation (ETF) affiliated unions across Europe are fighting for better pay and work conditions for public transport workers. In Italy, this includes negotiating the renewal of a national contract to increase wages, improve work-life balance and reduce increased workload caused by worker shortage. In Germany, Ver.di are co-ordinating strikes with climate activists and hopes to make improvements in wages and work patterns in a new collective bargaining agreement.

ETF, working with other expert group members in the EGUM, proposes a multi-pronged approach in the reports to transform public transport into the “Jobs of the Future.”

EGUM’s key recommendations on addressing worker shortage focus on four key areas:

  • Improving working conditions: This includes competitive wages, reasonable working hours with better patterns, and adequate rest periods. Additionally, modern and well-maintained equipment and measures to address work-related stress are crucial for ensuring worker safety, efficiency, and well-being.
  • Diversifying the workforce: The sector needs to actively recruit and support underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Creating a supportive and inclusive work environment with equal opportunities for career advancement is key to achieving this.
  • Increasing women’s employment: ETF proposes a comprehensive strategy to eradicate discriminatory practices and promote a gender-balanced workforce. This includes tackling stereotypes in job descriptions, fostering inclusive workplaces, offering flexible working arrangements for childcare, and creating clear pathways for career advancement with gender balance in leadership positions.
  • Fostering partnerships and collaboration: Addressing the worker shortage requires a collective effort. ETF advocates for collaboration between public transport operators, unions, educational institutions, and governments. This collaboration should involve knowledge sharing, best practice exchanges, and seeking input from transport workers themselves.

By implementing these proposals at all levels, we can turn the tide on the labour shortage and harness the potential of public transport to create high-quality, attractive, and inclusive jobs for the future. This will be critical for ensuring the smooth operation of our public transport systems and facilitating the transition away from car-centric models towards sustainable and thriving cities.

The ETF urges all stakeholders to take immediate action and invest in making public transport a truly attractive career choice for all. Together, we can build a future where public transport not only provides efficient and sustainable mobility but also offers rewarding and fulfilling job opportunities.