Europe needs an effective guarantee of youth solidarity
by Johann Bacher and Dennis Tamesberger
[This article published on 7/6/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://awblog.at/europa-braucht-eine-wirksame-jugendgarantie/.]
The far-reaching consequences of the Corona economic crisis on young people have not yet been widely recognized internationally. According to our forecasts, the labor market situation for young people in the EU-27 could dramatically worsen - the number of unemployed young people could rise from 2.8 million to 4.8 million within one year if no appropriate measures are taken. We are therefore proposing a new European Youth Guarantee, which should be endowed with EUR 50 billion per year, with those Member States most affected by the recession also receiving the most support.
Dramatic effects possible
There is a close link between economic growth and youth unemployment. Based on the experience of the financial and economic crisis in 2008, it can be assumed that a 1 per cent decline in GDP in the EU-27 will lead to a reduction in youth employment of 1.77 per cent on EU average. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a real reduction in GDP of 6.6 percent this year. The spring forecast of the European Commission (EC) assumes a stronger economic slump of -7.4 percent in the European Union. We use these two forecasts as an optimistic (IMF) and medium scenario (EC) to estimate the impact on the youth labor market in the EU-27. Since the forecasts are still subject to considerable uncertainty, we add a pessimistic scenario, which assumes an economic slump of -10 percent in the EU this year.
If the scenarios are correct, the impact of COVID-19 on young people will be dramatic. According to our middle scenario, the number of unemployed young people will rise from 2.8 million to 4.8 million within one year in the EU-27. The youth unemployment rate will increase from 15.1 percent in 2019 to 26.2 percent in 2020. This means that one in four young people looking for work will not find a job. Since the youth unemployment rate has only limited significance because only active job seekers are included, we have also estimated the number of young people who are neither in employment or training nor in a training measure - so-called NEET young people. Accordingly, the number of NEET young people will increase from 4.9 million to 6.7 million. The NEET rate will rise to 14.5 per cent, which means that one in seven young people under the age of 25 will not be in employment, education or training.
The EU Youth Guarantee must become more effective
As a result of the financial and economic crisis in 2008, the EU introduced a useful instrument, albeit very late - five years after the crisis broke out. In 2013, an EU youth guarantee was established to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 receive a quality offer of employment, education or training within four months of unemployment. The EU Youth Guarantee was mainly funded through the Youth Employment Initiative and had a budget of EUR 6.4 billion for the period 2014 to 2020. The aim was to support in particular regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 percent. In 2015, the budget for the EU Youth Guarantee was increased by 30 percent and a large part was additionally financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), which is linked to co-financing by the Member States. In the period 2014 to 2020, the Youth Guarantee was financed with a total of 12.7 billion euros from the EU budget. Although the objective of the EU Youth Guarantee was reasonable, its implementation and effectiveness is criticized, especially because of the insufficient budget. The actual cost of an EU Youth Guarantee is estimated at between 45.4 billion and 50.4 billion euros per year.
More budget needed
A new European Youth Guarantee should therefore - also in view of the expected rise in youth unemployment - be able to provide a total budget of around EUR 50 billion per year for youth measures in the Member States. In view of the economic and budgetary situation of the Member States, it seems crucial that the majority of this budget be financed from the EU budget and that EU Member States participate in solidarity according to their degree of affliction and their financial capacities (see below). The recent EU proposals for a "European Recovery Plan" also include the idea of a distribution mechanism, and the total budget of 750 billion euros should allow for a focus on young people. The REACT program (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe) is expected to provide an additional budget of €55 billion for the period 2021 to 2022. Part of this is also to be used for a youth focus. On 1 July 2020, the European Commission presented an initiative entitled "Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation". Four priorities are proposed:
Reactivation and extension of the European Youth Guarantee: extension to the age group up to 29 years with even greater consideration of disadvantaged young people
Promoting vocational education and training, taking into account diversity and inclusion
creating incentives for dual apprenticeship training, involving the social partners
Additional measures to promote youth employment and self-employment (start-ups)
This is a contribution of 22 billion euros, which is to come from the European Social Fund Plus and the above-mentioned COVID 19 EU proposals (European Recovery Plan, REACT program). Since, according to our scenarios, youth unemployment is already developing virulently in the EU this year, we - like the European Commission - propose a new EU Youth Guarantee, which should start in the second half of 2020. However, taking into account the experience of the early youth guarantee (see above), we believe that an annual budget of 50 billion euros (including co-financing by the Member States) for the age group of 15 to 24-year-olds, to which our forecasts refer, is necessary.
Broken down to the middle scenario, this budget would mean that for each unemployed young person (under 25 years of age) around 10,400 euros per year would be available, with the actual payment being adjusted to the purchasing power of the member states. This amount also appears to be an appropriate average value against the background of the Austrian experience with inter-company apprenticeship training and training up to the age of 18. In Austria, for example, the cost of training in an inter-company apprenticeship amounts to € 15,600 per young person per year (AMS funds plus federal state subsidies), although the costs also vary greatly between the federal states - from around € 8,400 in Salzburg to € 19,700 in Carinthia. If the new EU Youth Guarantee is broader in scope and targets NEET youths, the available budget per NEET youth per year would be reduced to 7,500 euros. This would be significantly lower than the economic costs of not taking action in the event of youth unemployment. Eurofound estimates the economic cost of long-term youth unemployment to be around 11,700 euros per year per young person on average in the EU. In Austria the costs are significantly higher this year, at around 17,800 euros per unemployed young person per year.
Parameters of the proposed Youth Guarantee for 15 to 24-year-olds
It seems important that the fund be implemented this year so that international and national measures can stimulate each other and youth unemployment can be effectively combated.
The new fund for the EU youth guarantee should - according to our proposal - be two-thirds financed by EU funds and one-third by co-financing from the Member States. In order to guarantee solidarity and avoid possible free-rider behavior, we propose that EU countries pay in advance and that a country's share should be based on how much youth unemployment rises in it as a result of the Corona crisis. If youth unemployment does not rise in a Member State, the country would not receive EU funding, but would have to contribute. Those countries with a sharp rise in youth unemployment would receive more EU funds than they pay in. In addition to the increase in youth unemployment, we believe that it makes sense to take other factors into account in co-financing, such as a country's public debt and/or poverty rates, as these factors influence the national ability to act in the fight against unemployment. We propose a socially indexed, formula-based funding that ties in with concepts such as those used or proposed in the education system in order to adequately distribute resources and needs at school locations (opportunity index), whereby outcome variables can also be included in the long term.
Our proposed EU Youth Guarantee, which we have designed for 15-24 year olds, can be extended to the 15-29 age group as recommended by the European Commission, but would require an increase in the budget above the 50 billion euro. An effective EU youth guarantee would not only signal that the EU cares for the future generation, but also offer support to regions with economic problems. For those young people who have already successfully completed their training and who cannot find a job due to the Corona economic crisis, the Youth Guarantee should be implemented more broadly in the sense of a job guarantee. This would mean that the Youth Guarantee could create an entry-level job market in the public or non-profit sector - in other words, jobs that serve the common good. Not only the young people would benefit from this, but also the entire society, which would make use of the socially and ecologically useful products or services that are created in this area. It is precisely the austerity policy in the wake of the financial and economic crisis that has delayed the socio-ecological transformation in many European countries and opened up gaps in services of general interest, which now need to be closed. An effective, solidarity-based EU youth guarantee could contribute to this.
"Capital and Ideology": We raffle off three issues of the Piketty book
13 August 2020 – Austrian blog Arbeit und Wirtschaft (Work and Economy)
The economist Thomas Piketty, who became internationally known with his bestseller "Capital in the 21st Century", has now written a book on the justifications of social inequalities in different societies with "Capital and Ideology". On March 13, 2020, just before the Corona lockdown, he presented it at the Chamber of Labor in Vienna. With his book, Piketty not only provides an impressive historical review of the political-ideological embeddedness of inequality, but also shows its negative economic and social consequences and makes proposals for a more just society.
We are giving away three copies of the book. Participation is easy by e-mail, closing date for entries is the end of August 2020. But please note: With more than 1,300 pages, the book is extremely comprehensive - those who are only interested in the essential statements are better advised to read the summary of AK Vienna (partly enriched with Austria-specific information).
With wealth comes political power, the ability to gain a better hearing and many advantages. Is it fair that a handful of very rich people own a large part of the wealth and pass it on over generations? What ideological narratives, ways of thinking and myths justify such a high level of inequality? What role is played by the glorification of private property, the welfare state, the shaping of political processes and democratic structures? In his new book, Piketty gets to the bottom of these questions by examining the worldwide history of social inequalities and their causes.
His central argument is that inequalities are not natural, but the result of political decisions and omissions, of social conflicts and power struggles. Every society supports and justifies social inequalities through an ideology of inequality. Piketty's new book is a call for more social justice, a fair distribution of wealth and income, and the expansion of workers' rights of co-determination.
We raffle three issues of the book "Capital and Ideology". Participating is very easy: Just send an e-mail with the subject "Kapital und Ideologie" and your name and postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org The winners will be notified by e-mail. The closing date for entries is August 31, 2020.
Targeted job creation through public procurement
by Lena Karasz
[This article published on 8/7/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://awblog.at/arbeitsplaetze-durch-oeffentliche-beschaffungen/.]
"A pandemic is a social disaster with some medical aspects." What the German pathologist and politician Rudolph Virchow recorded in the 19th century has been confirmed by the dramatic rise in unemployment since the outbreak of COVID-19. In this situation, the state - in addition to other labor market policy measures - could now use its purchasing power to create jobs. Enormous effects could be achieved on the labor market if only parts of the government procurement volume were linked to employment policy aspects.
A simple thought experiment
First, a simple thought experiment: A public client, for example the municipality X in the federal state Y, awards a contract for the construction of a new elementary school. In the invitation to tender, the municipality X specifies that 30 percent of the workers on the construction site must be long-term unemployed.
In its procurement process, Municipality X is thus pursuing a socio-political goal beyond the construction of the elementary school: the temporary (re)integration into the labour market of a group of people who were already considered "difficult to place" in the years before the Corona crisis despite the economic upswing. The approach of the municipality X described here is - unlike in some other European countries - a rarity in Austria.
However, this could change due to the drastic changes on the Austrian labor market as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19. Given the scale of total public procurement and the given budgetary limits for direct labour market policy interventions, public procurement can be an additional lever for employment policy measures.
Economic dimension and governance options
According to a study by the Technical University of Vienna, the purchases of goods, services and construction work by the public sector in Austria amount to approximately 61.7 billion euros per year. That is about 17.9 percent of the Austrian gross domestic product, which flows annually from public authorities to companies: from pens to motorways - the goods and services purchased by the public sector come from all sectors of the economy. Due to this range and the enormous volume of public procurement, the state is a decisive buyer power on the market. With its purchasing behavior, it can control the supply side to a large extent.
The extent to which the state can pursue objectives in the course of its procurement that go beyond the mere acquisition of the goods and services required is regulated by the EU public procurement directives. These are based on the principle of free and fair competition and aim to ensure that public funds are used as economically and efficiently as possible. For the European legislator, however, the economical and efficient use of taxpayers' money does not mean that purchasing decisions are based solely on business calculations. On the contrary: the EU legislative package enables the EU states to act strategically as purchasers in the public interest and to take account of the consequences for society as a whole in their purchasing decisions. The EU Commission calls public procurement, which also corresponds to a macroeconomic logic, "strategic procurement".
Leverage for macroeconomic aspects hardly used in Austria
Both the European Public Procurement Directives and the national Federal Public Procurement Act provide numerous opportunities to use public procurement projects specifically to achieve environmental and social policy objectives. In Austria, public contracting authorities have increasingly included environmental aspects in their purchasing decisions in recent years. Some contracting authorities, above all the City of Vienna ("ÖkoKaufWien"), are among the pioneers of environmentally sound procurement throughout Europe. In contrast, social aspects still play only a subordinate role in public procurement in Austria - measures to promote employment are virtually non-existent.
Union-wide legal certainty and implementation in Austria
For a long time, the pursuit of employment policy objectives through public procurement was a legal grey area. In 1988, in the "Beentjes" case, the European Court of Justice for the first time recognized the possibility of pursuing social objectives in public procurement. In this specific case from the Netherlands, the award of a contract was made subject to the condition that a certain number of the workers used for the contract be long-term unemployed.
The ECJ continued this case law in further rulings and finally this objective was included in the EU Public Procurement Directives 2014. The inclusion of these criteria was above all also a reaction to the still noticeable consequences of the financial and economic crisis of 2008. The new public procurement directives should enable a more dynamic interaction between economic, social and employment policies in the Member States than before and contribute to achieving social progress and economic resilience in the Union.
Since the adoption of the 2014 Public Procurement Directives, there is finally legal certainty that public procurement can also be actively used as an instrument of social and employment policy. In line with this objective, the current Austrian Federal Procurement Act also provides the contracting authority with a wide range of possibilities to impose conditions on its contracting partners, to employ job seekers - in particular long-term unemployed persons - or to carry out training measures for adult unemployed persons or apprentices when executing the contract. Employment policy considerations can be defined in advance as mandatory criteria or included in the evaluation of tenders. It is also possible to restrict award procedures to a group of tenderers whose primary objective is the integration of job-seekers.
Best practice cases outside Austria
In contrast to Austria, those European regions that were particularly hard hit by (youth) unemployment in the course of the financial and economic crisis of 2008 have systematically used public procurement to create jobs. In view of the amount of EU budget funds that flowed into the respective regions, it always remained essential that the social orientation of the awards did not have a negative impact on cost efficiency. Price therefore remained the decisive criterion.
A landmark for Spain was a 2014 Barcelona City Council decree, which stipulates that contracting authorities in Barcelona may only award well-defined works, supplies and services to economic operators whose purpose is the (re)integration of disadvantaged groups of people into the labor market. The initiative has had a significant impact on the Catalan labor market, as Barcelona, as the second largest city in Spain and the eleventh largest city in Europe, has a considerable procurement volume. More than 50 public administrations in Spain have now followed suit and concluded similar agreements.
In Italy, some local authorities (e.g. Gabicce Mare) reserve the contracting of cleaning services in municipal buildings exclusively to organizations whose primary purpose is the integration of disadvantaged groups into the labor market. A relatively long tradition of using public procurement in the fight against youth unemployment exists in France. Since 1989, the "Relais Chantiers" action in Strasbourg has aimed to promote, through public procurement, the professional integration of job-seekers and young people at risk of social exclusion in the region. Starting from Strasbourg, the idea of the "État exemplaire" in the awarding of contracts has since been increasingly gaining ground in other French regions: The state, acting in an exemplary manner, acts as a purchaser in the public interest and thus makes a decisive contribution to the creation of socially conscious markets. Even outside Europe, some governments are using their purchasing power to reduce disadvantages in the labor market. In his book "Buying Social Justice", published in 2007, Belfast-based university professor Christopher McCrudden analysed cases from the USA, Malaysia, Canada, South Africa etc. and concluded that pursuing social policy objectives through public tenders is an economically efficient means of achieving social policy goals.
Possibility of a paradigm shift
In Austrian public procurement practice, the idea prevails that, for reasons of efficiency and to ensure competition, public procurement law should only safeguard purchasing and not serve social considerations. As a result of the drastic effects of the Corona crisis on the Austrian labor market, however, a paradigm shift could take place. The idea of creating employment explicitly through public tenders could gain importance in this country for the first time. In view of the volume of public procurement, it can be assumed that significant steering effects can be achieved on the labor market if only parts of the public procurement volume are linked to employment policy aspects.
Against the background of other European best practice examples, the development of a step-by-step, regionally differentiated top-down approach would be recommended. Individual cities or municipalities could award construction projects or services from areas with an above-average number of low-skilled workers (e.g. cleaning services) under conditions that promote employment. Especially for persons affected by long-term unemployment and thus threatened by permanent social exclusion, temporary employment opportunities in the course of a public contract also open up new opportunities for (re)integration into the labor market.
It is beyond dispute that public procurement is not suitable to replace tried and tested employment policy instruments. Nevertheless, public procurement could be a relatively resource-efficient method to complement established labor market policy interventions. The question of whether public procurement should also be used as a lever for job creation in Austria in the future is a fundamental political question. This is all the more so as an economic sector that accounts for almost 18 percent of GDP inevitably has enormous political significance.
New start for the economy: focus on good work and fairly distributed prosperity
by Christoph Streissler and Florian Vukovich
[This article published on 7/27/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://awblog.at/neustart-der-wirtschaft/.]
The Corona pandemic is an epoch-making event. Political measures that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago are now part of the spectrum of possibilities worldwide. In Austria, the health crisis has been largely averted for the time being, but the effects on employment are dramatic. A new start for the economy must create good work for all, while ensuring a fair distribution of wealth and an expansion of services of general interest.
Cornerstones of reconstruction
At the moment, everything revolves around the question of economic recovery. Emergency aid programs have been launched throughout the EU in recent months. The difficult task now is to design the subsequent reconstruction programs in such a way that they also help to deal with the climate crisis in a socially just manner, rather than exacerbating it. Only if this succeeds can we rightly speak of a sustainable recovery. It is precisely these challenges that the current issue of "Economy & Environment" addresses.
First, a comprehensive employment and investment package must be put together quickly. At the same time, targeted measures are needed to combat poverty and the risk of poverty. Special attention must also be paid to the stability of the euro area. This can only be achieved with European solidarity. All the more reason, however, to combat the social distortions of the crisis requires solidarity-based financing.
It would be fundamentally wrong to simply use economic growth as an indicator of success in these efforts, because the Corona crisis has clearly shown that what matters most is employment, securing sufficient income and its fair distribution. The lockdown has led to a decline in consumption and resource use in a wide range of areas. In itself, many did not see this as a threat, and some aspects of the restrictions were perhaps even perceived as a gain in quality of life. But the decline in consumption has also led to a decline in production. The consequence is the increase in unemployment, which has become a threat to the existence of countless people in Austria and around the world.
Anyone who wants a return to economic stability must first of all fight unemployment. Full employment through fair distribution of work and the creation of good working conditions must be the most important objectives of economic policy. The Corona crisis is a clear reminder of this. Other dimensions that are used in the AK Prosperity Report to assess the progress of Austria's economic development are the fair distribution of material prosperity, the assurance of a high quality of life, economic stability and an intact environment.
Further development of the Austrian model
The AK also had these goals in mind when it presented a comprehensive demand paper for reconstruction in May 2020 under the name "Restarting Austria". This should ensure that unemployment falls rapidly, that the welfare state is well equipped to respond to current problems, that poverty and the risk of poverty are fought and that investments are made in the future. Financing must be ensured through fair tax contributions and joint efforts by the EU. In this way, health, social cohesion and climate protection can be promoted simultaneously during the economic recovery phase.
In the acute health crisis, the Austrian welfare state has once again proved its worth. It guarantees social cohesion, general access to good health care and, even in a lockdown, the maintenance of public transport and other public services. The ability of the Austrian social partners to act has also proved its worth, as they agreed on a model of short-time working that has enabled hundreds of thousands of jobs to be saved.
The Corona crisis clearly shows how important a well-functioning basic service in general and good health care in particular is. In many European countries, years of austerity and privatization measures have led to a deterioration and thinning of public services. In Austria in particular, it can be seen what inestimable value good hospitals, a reliable water and electricity supply, but also parks and green spaces in the immediate vicinity of the place of residence, have. In order to be able to build on these services and offers of public services of general interest in the future, they must be strengthened.
Unequal suffering requires solidarity
The corona crisis also revealed problems of social inequality as if under a burning glass. This can be clearly seen in countries with high inequality and without a functioning public health system, such as Brazil, Peru or the USA, where containment of both the pandemic and its social consequences is much worse. But in Austria, too, we can observe how unequally the lockdown affects rich and poor: on the one hand, unemployment has risen particularly rapidly, especially in low-paid sectors, and on the other hand, people in low-income households had fewer opportunities to cushion the multiple burdens of the lockdown.
However, overcoming the challenges of unequal concern is not only an issue within states, but also between them. In the EU, the burden of the crisis is unequally distributed. This means that the crisis may even offer opportunities for European solidarity. The Commission reacted swiftly by temporarily suspending the European debt and deficit rules. In order to better manage the reconstruction of Europe together, the EU heads of state and government now agreed at their last summit on a debt-financed increase of the EU budget framework for the years 2021 to 2027 by 750 billion euros. This significantly strengthens the clout of the European level.
The Corona crisis has once again made many people aware of the great importance of a strong welfare state and efficient public services. This should not be forgotten in the wage negotiations in the autumn either. After all, good wage agreements and good working conditions are also needed in order to strengthen social cohesion and the economy again.
"Stay at home" when there is none: homeless or homeless in crisis
14 July 2020
by Alexander Machatschke
[This article published on 7/14/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://awblog.at/obdach-oder-wohnungslos-in-der-krise/.]
Keeping distance, social distancing, home office and exit restrictions have become the buzzwords of this crisis. But what does this mean for people who have no home? Like keeping distance when you have to sleep in a shared room? How do you experience social distancing if you were already marginalized before? The Corona crisis reveals structural problems in the area of housing and poverty.
Health and social risks for homeless and homeless people
The terms "homeless" and "homeless" are often used synonymously in everyday language. However, it is important to differentiate, because the more precisely we know what we are talking about, the better we can develop and implement offers and structural solutions for the different groups. The Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe (BAWO) - the umbrella organization of homeless help organizations in Austria - uses the so-called ETHOS definition developed by the European Federation of Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA). The term stands for the English abbreviation of the European typology for homelessness, homelessness and precarious housing. While homelessness refers to life on the streets or the use of emergency accommodation and day centers, the term homelessness refers to assisted living in a community center or even in individual flats. Common to all those affected is a frequently poor state of health due to previous illnesses and/or the precarious living conditions.
Lower life expectancy
Even without corona, life on the street leads to those affected dying on average at a significantly younger age than others. It is statistically proven that men, if they are registered as homeless, die on average 20 years earlier. The call "Stay at home!", which was proclaimed during the lockdown as a protective measure, could de facto hardly be implemented by homeless people. Many of them were confronted with a wide range of discrimination in public space. At the same time, in this phase, offers of livelihood security, such as food, were only available to a limited extent, and in day centers, staying at home was often difficult to implement because of the space available.
Distance in confined spaces?
In emergency shelters, people do have a roof over their heads, but the issue of distance is inherently difficult to manage. In addition, shelters are normally only open at night and are hardly equipped for full-day operation in terms of space and personnel. It was therefore all the more gratifying that a large number of emergency shelters in Austria in the first months of the pandemic were nevertheless able to offer full-day operation through the commitment of employees, operators and funding agencies.
Although it is easier to stay away in many inpatient facilities for the homeless because there are private retreats, the residents are still severely restricted in their daily lives. For example, visits from outside were massively restricted. Such measures may of course have been helpful in preventing new infections. At the same time, it is important to be particularly sensitive with regard to the protection of basic rights and freedoms and to prevent excessive restrictions and discrimination.
Corona makes visible what was already problematic in housing
If this crisis has taught us anything, it has been the recognition of what is going wrong in our society. This concerned areas such as school education, child rearing, the health system, dependence on imports from all over the world, low wages, which then lead to even lower insurance benefits, and also the problem of housing.
And this problem goes far beyond homelessness. For homelessness is "only" the tip of the iceberg.
In the case of housing, it demonstrates what can happen when unbridled market forces prevail and housing becomes a commodity like any other - with consequences for broad sections of the population.
The massive increase in housing costs (especially in the cities) was a major problem even before Corona, especially when seen in relation to stagnating wage incomes, especially in the lowest income brackets.
Housing and poverty
Housing and poverty are closely related. According to EU data on income and living conditions, there is also a very clear link between the legal relationship to the dwelling (rent/ownership) and the subjective housing cost burden on the one hand and the risk of poverty on the other. High housing costs - relative to income - often combine with long-term poverty risks
41 per cent of those at risk of poverty spend more than 40 per cent of their total income on housing, compared with only 7 per cent of the total population.
For people at risk of poverty, the relatively high cost of housing is often accompanied by disadvantageous housing conditions such as overcrowding and living in damp and dark rooms. According to EU-SILC 2019, about 7 percent of all inhabitants or 623,000 people in Austria lived in overcrowded housing. At 16 percent, the rate of people at risk of poverty was more than twice as high.
Probably the most massive manifestation of stagnating incomes in combination with massively increased housing costs is reflected in the figures on homelessness and homelessness. Statistics Austria recorded a total of 22,741 registered homeless persons (without double counting) in Austria in 2018, of which 6,116 persons (26.9 percent) were affected all year round and 16,625 persons (73.1 percent) not all year round. 86 per cent of all homeless persons were registered in municipalities with a population of more than 100,000 (including Vienna). Men are clearly in the majority with a figure of 15,729 (69.2 per cent). About two thirds of all those affected were between 25 and 64 years old and 12,721 (55.9 per cent) were Austrians.
Securing affordable housing
The massive imbalance in housing clearly shows that something urgently needs to change. Housing must be affordable, durable and inclusive for everyone - these three dimensions are therefore also the core areas of BAWO's demands.
Affordable means that there is enough money left over for life after the housing costs have been paid. A permanent tenancy means that tenants have an unlimited housing perspective. Inclusive means that framework conditions are created that enable all people to participate in society. Special attention must be paid to the most excluded people or people with a great need for support.
In order to achieve these goals, many concrete measures must be taken to effectively combat housing deprivation. Some of these are:
Implement the human right to housing.
Strengthen the rental housing segment.
Reduce housing costs and effectively limit profits from renting out housing.
Reduce the possibilities of time limits and regulate them clearly.
Ensure non-discriminatory and inclusive access to (subsidized) housing.
Create more affordable, sustainable and inclusive housing.
Take measures to ensure a living wage.
Strengthen the social security system.
Implement social assistance benefits at federal and state level to secure livelihoods.
Standardize and increase monetary benefits for housing.
Improve the quality and stability of housing through a good living environment.
Expand "housing first" and other mobile support services.
Corona has strongly influenced the lives of the vast majority of people. But while some complain about not being able to take their desired holiday or not being able to celebrate indefinitely, others are threatened in their entire existence. This is especially true for people living in poverty, and even more so for the homeless.
But homelessness and homelessness are not laws of nature or inevitable disasters. The proposals as to how we can prevent them are on the table. All we need now is the political will to implement them.
Vocational e-learning: what homework the politicians now have to do
by Christopher Tanzer
[This article published on 7/13/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://awblog.at/berufsbezogenes-e-learning-hausaufgaben-der-politik/.]
As in other areas of everyday life, the corona lockdown has also rapidly accelerated the digitization of adult vocational education and training. The sudden need for "distance learning" has highlighted in a special way those areas that restrict, impede or even prevent e-learning opportunities for employees. A political response to this must be made as quickly as possible and a comprehensive "e-learning support package" for vocational adult education and training must be put together.
Corona as a digitization accelerator
The corona lockdown suddenly led to a massive increase in e-learning offerings in vocational adult education. Due to the temporary ban on continuing or holding face-to-face courses, many of them were converted into digital formats within a very short time. This disruptive development opens up numerous possibilities and opportunities. The number of (potentially available) educational opportunities has thus grown by leaps and bounds, especially for groups of people with mobility restrictions. A circumstance that is of particular importance for regional federal states such as Lower Austria.
Problem areas highlighted by Corona
On the other hand, the temporary need for Internet-based distance learning brought to light (even more clearly) some problem areas that already existed before, but which hardly received much attention due to the e-learning niche existence. The points listed below were also articulated or confirmed by numerous adult educators in the context of EBmooc plus 2020 and #ebcamp20, which took place during the corona lockdown:
The high competence requirements for learners: E-learning requires a high level of self(learning) competence from the users, which is not (automatically) available for many adults and often has to be acquired anew.
The pedagogical limits of e-learning: In some subject areas, especially in the teaching and practice of practical, manual and/or physical-motor skills (e.g. workshop training), face-to-face teaching cannot or can hardly be replaced by e-learning. The direct instruction ("learning by model") is much more difficult to realize digitally. Moreover, learners usually lack the opportunity for spontaneous assistance by trainers and informal exchange with colleagues. On the other hand, it is very difficult for teachers to recognize whether the knowledge has actually reached the learners and thus to determine the learning success (in a non-standardized way).
The shift of work-related learning into the private sphere: E-learning leads to an increased effort of self-learning, which has to be organized on one's own time and place. This can cause (work-family) conflicts, overburden learners and ultimately provoke drop-outs. For concentrated learning, quiet, undisturbed learning locations are also required. These are often not available or only available for a short time, especially for employees with (small) children and possibly cramped living conditions. In addition, there are often still few clear regulations for e-learning by employees with regard to participation in courses during paid working hours etc. This can lead to an (unintentional) postponement of learning into leisure time because there is too little time for it at work. Thus, e-learning in the occupational context is a further (potential) driver for the dissolution of boundaries and subjectification of gainful employment.
The continuation of the digital divide: Digital participation requires a minimum set of competences and skills as well as a minimum level of technical equipment. The Corona crisis has in turn revealed that there is an inequality of distribution in this respect in the (working) population. If digital learning is prescribed or becomes the only option, there is an even greater risk that this gap will become entrenched or even widen. This is particularly detrimental to groups of people with a low level of education and/or low income who, as a result, have little or no capacity to learn.
Data protection" as a stumbling block: In the community of adult educators there is skepticism to open aversion towards the large, established software providers, who have proven to make enormous profits with the data of the users. This raises the question of the extent to which stored, documented educational data (beyond the DSGVO) are to be regarded as sensitive personal data and therefore require special (state) protection. The issue of the "digital footprint" is also being raised by educational participants and the intrusion into the private sphere (via video, etc.) is being investigated.
The insufficient server capacities of open source programs: The only mostly free and data-secure alternative to the established online programs of the big IT giants would be so-called open source software such as Jitsi, BigBlueBotton or NextCloud. Many adult educators would like to use these for their educational offers. However, they refrain from doing so because the insufficient server capacities of these programs lead to connectivity problems and/or limited data storage possibilities.
Overloading the Internet infrastructure: The use of WLAN connections and/or slow, unstable Internet connections leads to connection problems, network failures and disruptions in online communication, especially with live online formats such as webinars or video learning groups.
"E-Learning support package" urgently needed
In response to these problem areas, the federal government should quickly put together an "e-learning package" for adult vocational education and training that would also benefit Austrian employees directly or indirectly. In addition to the rapid implementation of plans to expand the broadband and fiber optic network, especially in remote, "structurally weak" areas, the following measures should be taken into account in any case:
Clear rules for e-learning in the workplace: Employee-friendly (legal) framework conditions for the completion of (in-service) digital training measures. There is a need for equal (labor) law treatment of e-learning and face-to-face courses in order to achieve more internal transparency and clarity for employees.
Basic e-learning support for adult education institutions in order to be able to cover the (higher financial) expenses for the organization and provision of e-learning offers.
Nationwide, government-funded advanced training offensive for teachers in adult education, which aims to impart relevant competences in the field of e-learning.
Implementation of a comprehensive, user-friendly learning management system (LMS) for all Austrian adult education institutions (modeled on the German vhs.cloud), which includes all essential online tools (incl. video conference program, chat, forum etc.) for the organization and processing of e-learning offers and offers the best possible protection of stored learning and education data.
Loan equipment for employees: Laptops and tablets should be available on loan free of charge for the (confirmed) duration of participation in a digital training measure from the respective regional training providers and at municipal offices.
Public promotion of open educational resources (OER) and open source programs by providing state-financed server infrastructure and subsidizing programmers and software developers in order to minimize the general dependence of the (working) population on the commercially oriented IT giants.
Digital and analogue - both!
Despite the sense of pushing e-learning at various educational levels and thus making it accessible to all citizens, online learning will never be able to completely replace the physical, copied transfer of skills. This is also the experience of many adult educators in recent months. There are a number of justified reasons against pure "distance learning". For this reason, in the future, parallel to the publicly funded expansion of e-learning, it will also be necessary to politically ensure a nationwide "minimum supply network" of regionally available, public learning locations and adult education institutions with a diverse range of face-to-face or blended learning courses. Only a right to both digital and analogue learning guarantees the best possible access to education for all employees.