29th KGZE: the "Digital Age" is changing our way of living and working

At the 29th Conference on Trade Union Cooperation in Europe - KGZE,  which took place in Tirana from May 18th to May 21st 2017, the 85 representatives of trade union and workers organizations from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Ukraine (as guests) discussed the question of whether and how the "Digital Age" is changing our way of living and working. The various, outstanding contributions and presentations impressively demonstrated at this conference that we are in the midst of a worldwide - and thus also in all countries participating in this conference - Digital Revolution.

The conference was supported by the EZA and the European Union and was part of the EZA project coordination on the topic of "the impact of the digital world of work on the lives of workers and their families - social and ethical considerations".

What are the areas of activity at European level?

  • Gainful employment will continue to play a significant role in the life of each individual, as well as in society.
  • Even though the labor market will tend to decrease in the future, there are numerous fields where new jobs are emerging, such as: Green Jobs, Smart Cities, healthcare professions, pharmacy, mobility (development of self-driving cars), Software (Apps) and Hardware (Robots, Computers...), the food industry, national defence, information and communication technology – whereby digitalization will also create new opportunities to bring production plants from other parts of the world back to Europe (digital printers).
  • Field of Action EDUCATION: New and completely different education for our children and lifelong learning (LLL) for all.
  • Field of action INFRASTRUCTURE: By consequent expansion of transmission lines (broadband, glass fibre...) all people can get a fast and open Internet access.
  • Field of Action SOFTWARE: To allow free access to all programs via the Internet (open source) as a field of action for a future-oriented trade union (CYBER-TRADE-UNION). This was, digitalization is not only seen as a threat / danger / crisis, but also as an opportunity to transport content better and faster and to become stronger with new members.

Can we further develop the European social model through digitization?

  • Digital and social must not be contradictions.
  • Trade unions must use the possibilities of "modern communication"! For example e-mail, social media…
  • Trade unions must take up the speed of the "rapid change" that is taking place and understand change as an opportunity.
  • New forms of relations between employers and employees, as well as between governments and social partners, also offer new opportunities for dialogue.
  • The "social dialogue" needs rules, because every communication needs rules. Here, we will not throw away all previous cultural techniques, but will also bring ethics and values into the public discussion, because even in the technological progress of modernity, the PEOPLE must take precedence over all developments.

Can we further expand the market economy within social and environmental conditions?

  • The participants of the KGZE in Tirana declared a clear commitment to the market economy, but are convinced that we will also need social and ecological framework conditions for the development of a global "ecosocial market economy" in the future.
  • Our present form of business has - according to the Czech economist and author, Thomas Sedlacek - gone into the "trap of mathematics", the cost trap. We must therefore develop our economy so that a good life for as many people as possible can be achieved.
  • The concept, which has been continually developed in Europe in the decades since the Second World War, must not be dismantled, but must also be further developed in the context of global competition.

The excellent contributions and country reports in this KGZE in Tirana encourage the participants to understand digitization as an opportunity and to move into the future with the addition of our Christian values and the necessary link between progress and ethics!