The economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of job losses. But it need not be so. A new report provides a blueprint for wellbeing in times of economic and ecological crises and an inspiring vision for the future of work in our high-tech societies.
Beyond the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health and people’s lives, the accompanying lockdowns and restrictions have also inflicted a huge toll on people’s livelihoods.
To date, 2020 has proved to be a rollercoaster ride for the European and global economies. For instance, in the second quarter of the year, the EU economy contracted by an unprecedented 12% compared with the previous quarter, shedding 5.5 million jobs, the largest decline the EU has ever recorded. Overall, in 2020, the European economy is expected to contract by around 9%.
Ending the growth treadmill
A major new report by the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and the European Youth Forum (EYF), which is due out 15 November 2020, provides a blueprint for creating jobs in post-pandemic EU and a vision for revolutionising the future of work, including universal basic incomes, shorter working weeks, job sharing, job guarantees and economic democracy.
‘Escaping the growth and jobs treadmill: a new policy agenda for post-coronavirus Europe’, demonstrates empirically that the current orthodoxy insisting that constant economic growth is prerequisite for job creation is not only flawed but also socially and environmentally destructive.
It is within our means to put everyone to work and ensure human wellbeing without economic growth if productivity gains are distributed fairly and the focus of policy shifts to socially beneficial work, not just the most profitable jobs.
“Livelihoods matter. Not just for the richest in society. But for all of us. Labour matters. Not just as the means to production but as an investment in the building of society,” says Tim Jackson, the acclaimed economist and author of Prosperity without Growth, who provided a foreword for the report. “Those are the lessons of this timely and essential report.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has both thrown into focus the underlying conditions plaguing our current economic system and provided insight into an alternative future.
“Even as it shone a cruel light on the cracks in our society, the pandemic offered us an object lesson in transformation,” observes Jackson. “Lockdown curtailed our opportunities. But it sharpened our vision. Growth was set to one side. Health became our priority. The crisis provoked systemic change. But change cannot stop with crisis.”
‘’Do we really want to go back to ‘’normal’? Normal was a system where we needed to produce more to avoid mass unemployment with devastating effects on people and the planet,” notes the EEB’s Katy Wiese, the co-author of the report. “Building back better means rethinking our economic system by reducing our structural dependence on growth.”
“We won’t revive high GDP growth with an ageing and ever-less productive population in a world whose biophysical limits have been stretched to breaking point and in which people are increasingly unwilling or unable to buy more,” adds the European Youth Forum’s Jan Mayrhofer, the report’s other co-author. “It’s high time to rethink the jobs and growth agenda.”