This essay was written by Jos van Gennip on the occasion of the 5th European Social Week, 23-25 January 2014. It was given to the participants on the morning of Friday, 24 January. You can order paper copies or download the pdf on this page of website of Socires: [> Publications.
Bratislava, 2003: Perspectives -- The commitment of Christians and Christian Social Organisations in the construction of the European Union
Bad Honnef, 2000: Towards a European civil society -- Christian social visions
Brussels, 1997: Christian-Social Thought and Europe
The economic crisis implies major changes in society. The economic and social model of today is no longer sustainable for the future. Especially Social Partners and workers organisations are today challenged by the economic crisis. The economic crisis makes it necessary, for society as a whole but also for the social dialogue institutions and organizations to search for new social and economic models. Only with innovative ideas we will achieve the objectives of EU2020 and make a social and solidarity Europe possible for the future.
This seminar would like to explore good practices for a resilient social model and a resilient economic model, based on knowledge and expertise within European workers’ organisations and Social partners.
Europe is at a watershed. There is a huge economic and social gap between North- and South Europe. Southern European countries are hit by an unacceptable high rate of unemployment.
On the one hand we see the tearing down of major parts of the welfare state, growing inequalities in income, privatisation of services, the phasing out of social arrangements of solidarity. As a result, many experience that despite higher earnings they have less disposable income. The effects of the financial crisis only accelerate these developments.
On the other hand, we see new bonds of solidarity emerging, people connecting in real and virtual networks, people searching for meaningful work and a sustainable way of life. The world of work has changed drastically. Happiness, personal development, and job satisfaction itself, have become more important; people even go on strike for dignity, and for respect for their work.
The first part of the conference investigates which European Social Model is best suited to overcome the actual challenges in society. The expansion of the world market over the last decades has led to more investments, more jobs, more innovation and more responsible ways of meeting human needs. However, despite this, we are stranded in a global economic, social, and financial crisis, which clearly indicates the limits and the inadequacies of such an extensive globalisation process.
How can we integrate solidarity and participation into a social model for the future on both the economic and social level?
A sustainable business model addresses the continuity of the company, the flourishing of the employees, and the well being of society, in that order. Our current crisis is the result of a development in which the pursuit of profit has been disconnected from social responsibilities, and from the direct interest of the business itself. Profit is produced for the shareholder, not for the company. Such an only-for-profit business is not sustainable, neither economically nor socially. It flagrantly denies that a company is a community in which labour and capital work together, both with their rights and duties. It is vital that employees are treated as creative and responsible persons who are stimulated and supported to further develop their talents, and their social and moral capacities. We need qualitative growth, Social partners shall be aware of this.
The second part of the conference focusses on a vision for an economy based on human capital in enterprises and business sectors. Work ethics have changed worldwide. Increased competitiveness and flexibility increase pressure on workers. Those who cannot keep up with the pace of work and the knowledge levels, feel the threat of exclusion.
The relation between employees and employers requires re-evaluation. How do employers deal with the dilution of the rationalisation context, where employees are ‘valued’ based on their usefulness to guarantee the maximum profit for the shareholders? And how do employees and employers deal with the need for new flexibility, while it becomes more and more obvious that clinging to the image of the competitor as an ‘enemy’ will only lead to each other’s downfall?
In the third and final part, we will explore the sustainable development of Europe in the world . We do not consider Europe in isolation from the rest of the world. European choices must go hand in hand with: global human rights; conventions to fight climate change; requirements for healthy living standards; and ethical requirements for solidarity among all people. In this respect, we often clash on the classic contradictions between the economic and the political discourses. Economically, we accentuate the necessity of constant growth. In the debate on sustainability however, we reflect on reorientation and reduced consumption, which in turn leads to reduced growth. What are the essential individual and communal opportunities for us to seize?
For an overview of the presentations, please refer to the conference days in the menu at thetop of this page..
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