On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, LOCOMOTION hosted a LOCOMINAR in an effort to rethink employment and meaningful activities to move towards an economy that stays well below 1,5 degrees. This interactive event fostered dialogue among scientists, policymakers, and civil society on key issues relating to how the transition in the domain of work is reflected and taken up within the European Green Deal. Looking at the number of people participating in the event, there was a very clear message: People are increasingly recognizing that we need to profoundly transform our societies and economies, also in the field of employment and meaningful activities, in order to respect the planetary boundaries and foster human wellbeing.
Here are the main takeaways from the event:
“The European Green Deal, which aims to transform Europe into a fairer, more sustainable, and resilient region by focusing on climate and environmental goals, must also include work, employment, and meaningful activities, as well as reform of those,” said Katharina Wiese, Policy Officer for Economic Transition at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), when opening the event. Katharina also mentioned that if we don’t include these topics within the European Green Deal, “We risk remaining dependent on economic growth, as well as the consequences or negative effects this has on social and environmental aspects.”
The emphasis on productivity gains in our current employment system is a major driver of our reliance on environmentally harmful economic growth. “To mitigate the effect of productivity gains as a growth driver, we must change the tax system, reduce working time, and increase meaningful activities,” according to Irmi Seidl, the Head of Research of the Economics and Social Science Unit of the Swiss Federal Research Institute. During the event, a brief summary of the recently published book “Post-Growth, Work, Employment, and Meaningful Activities Within Country Boundaries,” co-written by Irmi and Angelika Zahrnt, was also presented.
Tiziano Distefano, one of the LOCOMOTION researchers who works for the University of Pisa, shared this sentiment about the need for a working time reduction. “If productivity gains are translated into less work, the scale of economic activity may also be reduced. As a result, the impact and pressure on the environment may be reduced,” Tiziano said, presenting some research findings regarding the topic of working time reduction within the context of the LOCOMOTION project. Tiziano also mentioned how we must consider all of the consequences of any policy, including working time reduction policies. “Because the social, environmental, and economic spheres are intertwined, we must consider all direct, indirect, and side effects of any policy.”
Specific country experience related to working time reduction was also presented at the event. ” Four days of work per week has been implemented by 400 companies in France, benefiting 17,000 employees. It also generates 10% more jobs, which are high-quality, long-term contracts,” said Michel Cermak, speaking on behalf of Pierre Larrouturou, a Member of the European Parliament who was unable to attend the event. A four-day work week policy is a win for employees and a win for businesses. It has been demonstrated that after the policy is implemented, workers are more productive, creative, and simply have a better quality of life.
During the event, the voice of young people was also represented. “When we discuss the future of work, we must remember that it begins with a cultural shift, not just a policy shift. And I believe that when we design these policies, we should also consider how we can shift the general discourse toward a discussion in which we say, okay, maybe it’s more okay to be “lazy,” do nothing or engage in activities that don’t have a productive purpose. So, I believe the inverse of work is essentially play, correct? So, you know, playing music and all of that, and just making it a little more acceptable in our society,” argues Jan Mayrhofer, Senior Policy Officer at the European Youth Forum. “I believe that the goal of work in a post-growth economy is to decouple living and wellbeing from the obligation to work for a wage,” Jan added.
The LOCOMINAR provided an opportunity for experts from various stakeholder groups to learn and share knowledge, as well as to connect across sectors. During the discussion session at the end of the event, participants and speakers discussed the current policy context and how it may evolve in the future, as well as best practices, and recommendations.
The video of the event is available to watch here.
The presentation slides used by the speakers are available to be downloaded here.
For further information and background reading, here are some links you might find useful:
- Post-Growth Work: Employment and Meaningful Activities within Planetary Boundaries by Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt.