Shape the future of work! Digitization, globalization, migration - the labour market is changing. We will manage the transition of workers into new types of employment and emerging industries, pushing the European Union to build a more comprehensive Social Pillar.
What would we do first?
Guarantee a minimum income above absolute poverty levels!
What’s going on?
Work and labor markets are changing dramatically, as the result of digitalization, globalization, and migration. This poses both challenges and opportunities for Europe. On the one side, unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, is at an alarming level in many regions (43% in Greece) and poses a dramatic threat to social cohesion while increasing polarization. On the other side, people, who desire more flexibility for their work-life balance and for self-employment, find ever growing opportunities to arrange their life accordingly. Understanding and managing both are key priorities for all European citizens, yet traditional parties are slow to grasp the urgency of this matter and to propose viable solutions.
What’s our vision?
Properly managing the transition towards the ‘Future of Work’ will require a determined effort for the EU to also become a ‘Social Union’. Volt stands for a European approach to Social Development, with practical minimum standards of social protection, decent work, and pay, enabling a successful digital transformation which contributes both to greater prosperity and better working conditions within the EU. Volt envisions universal social protection and an adequate income to become a core pillar of EU Policy making. This requires a long-term perspective combined with short-term actions. As a high priority, Volt proposes policies that reduce unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, including measures to further integrate the European labor market and actively support mobility of job seekers across Europe.
How do we get there?
Volt advocates an EU-wide “Marshall Plan on Work and Life-long Employability” as one program to put such Social Union into practice, with the following components:
1. Guarantee a minimum income above absolute poverty levels! Volt will strengthen the existing Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) schemes across the EU, initially with at least a modest goal of converging on a minimum poverty threshold of 40% of the equivalent national median income (“extreme poverty”). The schemes are conditioned not only on a traditional job search, but also on a possible development of a new business or even an (unpaid) social activity (like mentorship, etc.). Therefore, Volt will build on the principles proposed by the Social Platform for a European Directive on minimum income. This includes amongst others a set of common methodologies for defining adequacy, common approaches on coverage, avoiding exceptions and back doors, and efforts to ensure take-up and common information requirements. Furthermore, it should address the needs of particular groups (for example single parents, long-term unemployed, older people, young people, etc.) and ensure gender equality.
2. Flexibility and work-life balance: Volt proposes a Working Time Choice Act and wants to become the recognized political voice for the growing number of self-employed, start-ups, crowd and gig workers. Any new policy to encourage and regulate more work-flexibility will have to balance at least three principles: (I.) Enable more flexible, digital, mobile forms of working, while also (II.) protect workers’ health, continuous employability, and base income during all life stages and (III.) increase the international competitiveness of companies.
3. Family Working Time following parental leave to allow both parents to go into part-time, with possible compensation of reduced income during specific life phases (e.g. during early infancy as foreseen in the German Parental Leave Act) to better balance between parents’ responsibilities for family, caregiving and generating income. Family Working Time would follow parental leave and last up to three years. Both parents would e.g. work 80% of full-time and the loss of wages is compensated with a digressive rate based on the income level and the duration.
4. Lifelong learning for employability: Volt supports a strategy to move ‘From an Unemployment to an Employment Insurance’ with a reorientation towards a preventive scheme focused on maintaining employability. Volt advocates the immediate adoption of ‘Erasmus Pro’, a European mobility program for young people to fund 200,000 two-year long apprenticeships each year, with an estimated initial budget of €5 billion a year (for more detail see ). Volt supports Individual Long-Term Accounts that support lifelong education, boosted by a periodic Bonus for lifelong learning and re-training, to remain employable within a fast-changing labor market. For people near retirement a consideration between retraining and early retirement based on personal welfare and wellbeing as well as government budget constraints (i.e. careful attention is given to the sustainability of the pension system over the long term) is necessary.
5. Start capital: Volt proposes a Start Capital for every young person in the EU. Such start capital can be seen as a Social Inheritance, that enables young persons to develop their talents, chose a career or start up a business, independently of the social status and wealth of the parents. So everyone is eligible, but depending on parents income/wealth, it is either a grant (poor parents) or a soft loan (wealthy parents) with a possible graduation in between. The eligible expenditure includes a broad range and definition of life/profession-enhancing activities. Volt proposes large-scale experiments with unconditional start capital to learn how to best structure such a policy instrument.
6. Venture into unconditional income: Volt supports large-scale experiments with unconditional basic income (UBI), to provide a solid knowledge basis to decide on the merits of this novel approach to social protection.
7. Assure minimum child benefits all over Europe. Volt will harmonize child benefits to minimum standards in the EU. Universal child benefits substantially reduce child poverty. Efficient family policies such as providing adequate child benefits lead to better chances to secure the work-life balance, and to protect children from social exclusion.
8. Create a European Labour Platform to match labour force and jobs across Europe. Volt will introduce the European Labour Platform to account for differences in needs across member states, to assess a EU-wide supply-demand gap for skills and competencies and incentivize balance. EURES, the European job mobility portal, and the Skills Panorama of Cedefop can constitute building blocks of such an initiative. This measure, if properly matched with a “resettlement package” aimed at a) providing an intensive language course and b) financial support to move, can reduce overall unemployment by connecting already existing supply and demand.