A New Progressive Era

BERLIN — 3 July 2017

Breakout session: The new politics of class

27th May 2016

Speaker: Alison McGovern, UK Labour member of parliament

Chair: Anna Ascani, Italian Democratic party member of parliament

Class and globalisation

The issue of class is linked to globalisation, which is linked to the issue of making education accessible.

Across Europe the distinctions between classes have been changing dramatically. In the UK today people don’t identify with the old class structures. The financial crisis has impacted many people negatively and as a result there are struggling to maintain their standard of living.

Globalisation opens up new possibilities for some peoples while others are struggling to maintain their jobs and standards of living.

Different grievances when it comes to the issue of class

Some are legitimate others are not. There have even been expressed concerns that women entering the workforce are limiting the opportunities of men.

The most important issue is that of ensuring equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups of people when it comes to accessing education.

Disproportionate increases in wages in the past seven years have not been equally spread out across different groups. Some people are left behind, as they do not have the skills required to find new jobs.

Geographical clusters

Industrial cities have performed better in making a transition and ensuring economic growth. Opportunities have been provided for people to opt into other professions also by ensuring education/retraining courses. However, rural areas are struggling to ensure economic growth and create new jobs. This is also due to the ‘urban march’.

The rural areas can be characterised as having low-skilled and low-paid jobs as well as high-skilled and low-paid jobs. These areas have seen no progress in the period following the financial crisis. Social Democrats/Labour have left these people behind. In some respects the Social Democrats are disassociated from ordinary people.

Class structures and the issue of an anti-educational culture

Difficult to prove any link between educational achievements and a so-called anti-educational culture. Have not come across any specific examples. A more plausible explanation is that social factors impact on educational achievements.

Policies that makes a difference

In the UK there have been contracts set up between parents and professionals emphasising early years educational schemes – and these schemes are now covering children as young as two years old. The focus has been to support the disadvantaged families and these initiatives seem to be effective.

Three solutions to grievances:

  • Stand up for progressive politics: everyone deserves to be included and given equal opportunities, including women.
  • The issue of geographical clusters characterised by high levels of poverty and unemployment:
  • People in these areas are often socially isolated as well as struggling with unemployment and poverty
  • EU’s structural funds and development projects have actually had an impact. Areas that were excluded from progress are now experiencing positive developments. The focus needs to be on place-based schemes that support local improvements.
  • Productivity crisis in the UK/EU: employers also need to make investments into adult education. Second chances of education are often perceived as an add-on. However, these schemes are necessary to improve productivity. Currently a levy on companies to take on apprenticeships has been introduced (especially young people). Interesting to see the results. Businesses and employers have to be in the lead.

The issue of class and education is a macro-economic issue and not a question for the individuals to deal with themselves.

Digital apps could be useful in providing people with the knowledge of opportunities for further education.

Rapporteur: Sarah Vaaben