Inequality, what’s this? And what different economic „schools“ exist? This was the subject of our most recent online meeting as part of our cooperation on 7th October 2021. Two further contributions to our learning platform were discussed. The Austrian colleagues presented a socio-economic understanding of inequality that goes beyond the usual interpretation of income inequality and also takes into account, for example, the global inequality in the consumption of CO2. They emphasised that inequality is not a „natural“ given, but is produced by society and its power relations. It is expected that inequality will continue to increase. What kind of welfare state would therefore be needed to enable a good life for all? How can be ensured that the discussion of inequality also refers to the big issues such as climate change, digitalisation (platform economy, etc.), migration, the future of pensions?
The „economy“ is often associated with a certain way of looking at it. But far from it. Embedded in historical contexts and along the different understandings of work, the colleague from the Spanish partner organisation went into ideas from Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes and more recent authors. As so often this year, this was a stimulating meeting – next year then as a ‚real‘ encounter.
Co-Working. We meet each other online regularly. On 24th March again. Colleagues of organisations from seven European countries planned their activities. Re-planed, re-planed, re-planed. Fortunately, there was also time for content. For example, the question of the connection between economic growth and environmental development. What kind of growth do we need? And what can happen in an economic system without (economic) growth? What transformation can there be towards a truly ecological economy? We enjoyed an intensive exchange and once again a great atmosphere in the group.
According to the economic forecast of the Ministry of Finance, the bottom of the crisis has been overcome and economic recovery can be expected from next year.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Estonia and Northern Europe will be smaller than the EU average. The impact of the crisis has been very unevenly distributed between different sectors of the Estonian economy.
The COVID-19 footprint in small countries is of strong influence. The information technology and communication sector was the least hit by the first wave of the coronavirus in spring, while accommodation providers, caterers and travel agents found themselves in the most difficult situation. During the wintertime now, Estonia is entering the second wave in a vulnerable position. The most suffering sectors are responsible for 14 percent of the added value and employ every fifth worker in Estonia.
“That was much better than expected.” “The exchange and feedback culture were very good. The comments on the articles were relevant and extremely helpful. This is not that often practised.” “Cooperation, that’s the meaning of EU projects.” “I was very impressed by the interactive didactic parts.” “Good atmosphere despite online communication.”
For one week, from 16-20/11/2020, project participants from seven organizations in seven European countries agreed on the first seven contributions to the learning platform. Due to the Corona crisis, the workshop had to be postponed several times and now had to take place online. The topics discussed included Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), Debt, Europe and the Global South, Economic Strategies to Manage the (EU) Crises, Perspectives on the Future of Europe: Competition or Cooperation, Public Goods and Social Welfare, Climate and Economy, and the Empowerment of Women as Actors in the Economy.
Multi-perspectivity: what does that mean?
As diverse as the topics are, so different are the approaches the authors have chosen. While some are socialised with the neoclassical approach and less familiar with the reference to several theoretical frameworks in one article, others tend to take (post-)Keynesian perspectives and contrast them with neoclassical arguments. Is there only one view? What is the best way to design educational materials so that readers know “where they stand” and are not overwhelmed? The unexcited, fairly frequent discussion of these questions encouraged the exploration of other perspectives and the reflection of one’s own. One thing is already certain: The learning platform will be a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk.
Refreshed and full of experience, the Irish partner introduced the use of interactive online tools. Mentimeter, speakeasy, jamboard and padlet were immediately applied in the attempt to test the elaborated didactic parts of the educational materials together online and in small groups. It went surprisingly well. The participants learned that Germany burns the most lignite in the world, that around 80% of the global primary energy supply consists of fossil fuels, practiced with bank balance sheets, debated crisis scenarios and collected macro and micro factors that need to be considered when founding a company. And much more. The materials will now be revised in the light of feedback and made available on the learning platform in early 2021.
Online workshops: a nonsensual-sensual experience
Nevertheless, an online workshop can bridge the gap, but cannot replace the intensity and versatility of a ‘real’ exchange. Not all didactic parts could be applied and discussed together. What was missing were the discussions in pairs or in small groups over lunch or in the evening, which have such a positive effect on the group activities. There was a lack of ideas from the breaktime discussions and the opportunity to deepen individual topics. Most of the group already knew each other. That was our advantage.
Socioeconomic education is democracy education
Our goal is to make economy and society understandable. Particularly in times of profound transformations, of climate change, changes driven by digitalisation, and the negative consequences of the corona crisis that are to be expected for the economy and the social security of citizens: this understanding may help to avoid lapsing into interpretations of reality that go hand in hand with disdain for other people or groups.
Women are often disadvantaged on the labor market. They generally earn less in comparable positions. Women are hardly represented in management positions. They are perceived as a “risk group” if they are single parents. And they often still lack self-confidence when it comes to turning their possibilities into realities. The partner of the Czech organisation AVITEUM addressed these questions and presented in her contribution strategies for the empowerment of women with regard to their skills on the labor market. The feedback from colleagues was factual, fruitful and driven by respect. Again, the topic came up with the question of what constitutes a multi-perspective approach in the presentation of a topic. To this end, various considerations were brought together. We will see what the result is. Soon to read on the learning platform. 🙂
At the end of last year, the European Commission introduced the “European Green Deal” which represents a set of policy initiatives with the common aim of making Europe climate neutral in 2050. Ursula vod der Leyen, President of the European Commission stated that: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy. It will help us cut emissions while creating jobs.” The Commission will propose a European Climate Law which will bring new legislation on the circular economy, farming, resource-efficient building or biodiversity. The European Commission plans to invest in all sectors of economy to reach its ambitious goal to transform the EU from a high- to low-carbon economy. In September 2020 the EC launched a €1 billion call for research and innovation projects that respond to the climate crisis and help protect Europe’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity.
The creation of money and debts: The filmmaker Carmen Losmann asks the grandees of the financial world naive questions, questions that do hit the heart of our economic system: How does money come into the world? Who takes over the debts? Does an economy only grow when credits grow? Is profit only possible when people, companies or the state get into debt? Who collapses first, our ecosystem earth or capitalism? In the film, fundamental economic interrelationships are vividly presented and confirmed by prominent bankers. Citizens also have their say, who trace these connections and ask critical questions. An instructive film, which is not an educational film after all, often makes you smile – and makes you want to deal with these questions further.
Co-production of the German speaking public TV stations ZDF and 3sat, shown at the Berlinale 2020.
The film is in German with English subtitles and vice versa.
The university professor for Economic Sociology and Social Science Education, Reinhold Hedtke, discusses convictions on citizen’s participation and the civic education required for it. Among others, he takes the increasing social inequality into consideration which is probably linked to depolitisation and abstention. The „systemic tensions between democratic participation and capitalism“ are therefore also ‘on the table’. What about his consequences regarding education for participation? See the full article. Below you find the abstract.
The paper presents a critical review of key tenets of mainstream educational thinking on participation. Many approaches to education for participation tend to fall short of the state of the art of social science research on participation. Therefore, the paper calls for educational and subject didactic approaches to consider the diversity and irreconcilability of theories of participation and of models of citizenship. It aims to curb participatory enthusiasm by taking into account crucial empirical findings on the disappointing effects of increasing participation. Persistent and increasing economic and political inequality and tendencies of depoliticisation turn out to be among the main obstacles to delivering on the promise of equal opportunities for democratic participation. This brings the systemic tensions between democratic participation and capitalism to the force. Against this sceptical assessment of participation theory and the reality of political participation, the challenges, possibilities and tasks of subject didactics in the social science domain are discussed. Above all, they face a fundamental decision: to subscribe to the idea of a functionalist education for participation as a kind of social engineering via schools, or to foster critical and political thinking about participation with the aim of changing prevailing power relations in favour of the less powerful and the powerless.
Experts from the OECD and the Observatory prepared a set of 30 Country Health Profiles, covering all EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway.1 Since 2000, life expectancy at birth has increased by four years in Poland, but remains three years below the EU average. According to the Report State of Health in the EU 2019, the Polish population has one of the lowest life expectancies in Europe. It is just 77.8 years comparing to the EU average of 80.9 years. No surprisingly that fewer Poles report being in good health compared to other EU countries. In 2017, only of 59 % Polish population reported perceiving themselves to be in good health, compared with two thirds for the EU as a whole.
A weak effectiveness of health system is one of many reasons for it. Poland’s health system is mainly based on the state Social Health Insurance with the Ministry of Health and local governments supervising health care services. There are some private hospitals, but their share of patients beds was just 5% in 2015. Although private hospitals tend to be more effective than public ones, their profitability depends deeply on public contracts.2 Unfortunately the public share of health care spending in Poland, both as a share of GDP and in per capita terms, is one of the lowest in Europe. This low level of funding is insufficient to provide timely access to high-quality care, particularly given rising health care needs due to population aging. In consequence the level of unmet medical care needs in Poland is higher than the EU average, as Poland faces an acute shortage of health professionals.