Work, work, work, work, or?

We live in a society of achievement and performance, where saying “yes, of course I can” is the default and having a fully booked calendar is a sign of success. You achieve more, produce more, pushing towards the top because whatever you want you can get if you work hard enough. Team that up with the pressure of having alone time, going to the gym, having time for your partner, your kids, having a beautiful home, and that annoying hash tag #norest that is trending all over Instagram.

Not surprisingly, stress-related illness is soaring across Europe. According to a European opinion poll conducted by the EU-OSHA, more than half of workers report that work-related stress is a common problem in their workplace. In the UK, a recent survey revealed that 51 per cent of full-time employees have experienced anxiety or burnout in their current job. In Sweden, the employment office’s statistics show that currently 35,000 people are on sick leave due to exhaustion or burn out. What the statistics also show is that women are more affected than men, making it a question of gender equality.

Moreover, it is also a matter of democracy when parts of the population, read women and especially young women, are stepping down from positions and commitments prematurely due to stress, as this will lead to a skewed distribution of power.

In my first post on this blog I wrote about the concept of doughnut economics and the importance of staying within our planetary boundaries to ensure sustainable social foundations and human wellbeing. Being sustainable and resilient as human beings, having the space to rest from constant demands is equally important to have a sustainable society.

And this is the point; burnout is a structural problem not an individual one. It is a reflection of our economic system shouting at us to achieve and produce more. In our professional life and in our personal ones. But remember, you are more than your productivity. Way more.

/Anna Tranberg

Works with research and innovation at the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems

Federation of Young European Greens COP21 delegate

Money, tax and welfare

The recent Brexit leave campaign with its bright red bus swooshing by on the telly stirred up a lot of questions regarding resource allocation in my head. Happily proclaiming that money normally spent on the EU should be redistributed to the UK national health service (NHS) (1), the bus positioned not only the national versus the European and the global, but also how public funds are used, as well as the value of our common services. Moreover, it came with a narrative that placed institutions and people outside the national border as destructive to the British economy and welfare.

Coincidentally, zapping onto a Swedish TV show (Korrespondenterna) a couple of days later the same theme of allocating public money was discussed, however this time from a different perspective – that of tax evasion.

The European Commission estimates that around 1 trillion euros leaves the EU each year in unpaid taxes (2). An extortionate amount of money. Some illegally but also some through legal loopholes and tax planning meaning that large companies end up paying a fraction of what a firm not using loopholes would. This spring, European leaders agreed to address and cut down on these loopholes. The EU also sanctioned Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for allowing companies and individuals to escape taxes.

Improving public services does not mean keeping people from using them and closing borders. It means to fairly contribute to these services and thus clamping down on tax evasion is one such thing. Referring back to my former blog post on doughnut economics, working against tax evasion to improve public services will help us move towards the social foundation of inclusive and sustainable economic development, and hence, inviting more people to take part in the services and prosperity in society.

/Anna Tranberg

Works with research and innovation at the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems

Federation of Young European Greens COP21 delegate

(1) a promise that was withdrawn before most people had the time to boil the kettle the day after the referendum

(2) www.ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/tax_fraud_evasion/a_huge_problem/index_en.htm

What to do(ughnut) about the economy?

Traditionally development goes hand in hand with economic growth and the health of nations is measured in monetary terms through gross domestic product (GDP). However, it is evident by looking at the current state of the world that economic growth is not enough to provide basic human rights such as health, water, and food, nor does it after a certain point make us any happier. Social and economic inequalities are growing, with the gap between rich and poor getting deeper. Forests are shrinking, there are less fish in the oceans and biodiversity loss is speeding up. Our global economy relies on uneven development, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of the capitalist system[1].

Yet, economic growth and its attached policies are still considered the panacea to have development and sustainable societies. Einstein once said that the way of thinking that got you into a mess is not the kind that will get you out of it. So, why is the question what we want from a society, and if the current structures are allowing us to do so, rarely asked?

Economist Kate Raworth decided to ask this question by saying: “what if economics started with human wellbeing rather than money?” and thus developing a new type of system: doughnut economics! Rather than emphasising the flow of money, Raworth’s theory places our social foundations such as social equity, energy, health and food (exhaustive list in the picture below) at the centre. Moreover, she also added our planetary boundaries in another layer, based on Johan Rockström and his colleagues’ work, creating the outline of just a doughnut. Planetary boundaries refer to things such as ozone depletion, climate change and ocean acidification, all with limits we need to stay within in if we are to avoid disastrous and irreversible environmental change.

doughnut

Pictures showing the doughnut, planetary boundaries and social foundations

The challenge is to ensure our social foundation while keeping within the planetary boundaries and

doughnut2how we do this practically. However, today, as we know through the sustainable development goals, none of the social foundations have reached their boundary i.e. where everyone has access to clean water, education etc., while three of the planetary boundaries have been overrun. As Raworth argues, in order to meet human rights and ensure wellbeing of all people within the planetary boundaries we need to get into the doughnut, a safe space for humanity where the earth and its systems are supported. So, who is up for a doughnut?

 

/Anna Tranberg  

Works with research and innovation at the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems

Federation of Young European Greens COP21 delegate

[1] To read more check out: Coe, N M., Kelly, P F., and Yeung H W., (2007) Economic geography. A contemporary Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Presentation Anna Tranberg