Introduction to the EII’s “Post-COVID” series of publications and research
Establishing of a new line of EII’s research “block” is a reflection of the Institute’s interest in the changes in modern European political economy’s policies and in the “post-COVID’s” effects on European socio-economic integration, workforce and governance.
The Institute is quite aware that sooner or later the present pandemic will come to an end; but the attention to urgent national efforts in re-shaping political-economy’s structures and formulating adequate measures in tackling any critical situations and/or disasters in future would be always vital both for researchers and for the governance.
Hence, the EII’s series would cover most vital and –hope – most interesting for our readers “post-pandemic issues”, which could be actually quite numerous. However, the Institute’s focus will be on those political-economy’s issues which are having direct (mostly) and indirect (consequently) effects for the European integration and the perspective growth in the member states. Some initial signs of EEI’s interest in these issues can be seen at: https://www.integrin.dk/2020/04/14/after-covid-composing-a-resilient-economys-plan/#more-392
The series’ concept
Complexity of this line of research is evident: so far major remedy efforts during the pandemic have been dominated by the medical and biological sciences (as the main instruments to resolve the infection’s spread); hence, among most pertinent means in treating the pandemic were quantitative easing and additional financing. This has been a vision in the EU’s long-term approach as well, i.e. a massive financial injection into numerous rescue measures in the multi-annual budget and the “new generation EU” rescue program, both totaled about € 1, 82 trillion.
Several scientific disciplines are already involved in researching the pandemic’s aftermath. However, a vital remark has to be made: contrary to the natural sciences’ fields (including medicine and biology), in which there are fundamentally accepted “rules” guiding each sectors’ evolution and development, in social sciences (incl. economics and politics) that “set of rules” is not so-to-say universally evident; in many cases scientists in the world are still in doubt about their proper application.
It doesn’t mean though that the lack of formally adopted and recognized “rules” in social sciences has limited the role of the sciences’ impetus into a better understanding of basic human life’s circumstances along with guidelines on which an evolving modern political economy is based. Therefore, the Institute’s set of “post-covid” articles is aimed at providing a new vision into political analysis while visualizing additional instruments in understanding “the changing rules” and formulating most feasible approaches to growth models and, in the last extent, in predicting the future trends in the European integration.
The pandemic is still “covering” major parts of the world and Europe: by the mid-2020, there were about 700,000 deaths recorded from the pandemic, and the global-total is increasing at a rate of roughly 40,000 a week; with unrecorded deaths, the actual numbers could be higher. Meanwhile, the global economy is experiencing its sharpest contraction since the Great Depression a century ago, of about 8% of GDP in the first half of 2020; shutdown in Europe coasted millions of jobs followed by the greatest ever contraction (e.g. in the UK over 20 percent). Source: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/08/08/the-world-is-spending-nowhere-near-enough-on-a-coronavirus-vaccine
Hence, the series’ scope – at least in the initial period – would consist of three main parts (with a number of articles in each) stemming from the necessity to reveal present conditions and perspectives in three most vulnerable to the national growth patterns and the European integration issues: a) economy and entrepreneurship, b) workforce and labour relations/markets, and c) politics and governance. These three lines of research will be closely connected to the systematic vision of the EII’s new “post COVID” research activities: the Institute intends to follow closely the “post-Covid” changes in subsequent publications.
a) Business and entrepreneurship
During the first half of 2020, corporate entities and employers in general have been trying to adapt to unexpected and new strategies while trying to implement them in the two main directions: a) in working processes and staff, ensuring employees participation; and b) in adaptation to digital technologies, AIs and robotics.
In entrepreneurship, as it seems, is important to take into consideration peoples’ life styles, habits and consumption patterns in view of great modifications occurring in consumers’ behavior, while being better prepared for a continuously changing consumers’ “tastes”.
For any business it is vital to understanding the main “features” that are driving consumers’ shopping instincts: these are the key factors which businesses need to consider when approaching consumers. Several key consumer types have been explored recently, from lifestyle choices to buying habits, with their effect on consumers and business interrelations.
More in: Euromonitor International: Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2020, by Gina Westbrook and Alison Angus: http://go.euromonitor.com/rs/805-KOK-719/images/
At the same time, changes are expected in the corporate internal structures, where remaining agile is becoming ever vital together with broader corporate social responsibility, CSR.
b) Workforce and labour relations/unions
This part of research consists of a number of sub-sections: in the first place, the attention is directed towards analysing changes in the workforce and labour markets in general, with the apparent need for new skills and job’s opportunities. Affordable digital professional skills would provide people with a better life and personal accomplishments while assisting in making better decisions on possible future perspectives.
However, with modern global and European challenges, e.g. with technological and digital transformations, the “images of the future” would have to require a constant impetus of new skills and/or fundamental retraining. This can increase peoples’ capacity to withstand possible difficulties in life. Among new skills, a digital literacy is becoming a priority alongside “teaching sustainability” and additional need in the system thinking; the quality teaching and learning is a key to a changing workforce.
Besides, the Institute will analyse the present situation in the European labour market and trade unions as major factors in the EU’s guidelines towards “social market economy”. Recent pandemic has underlined a vital new aspect in the labour union’s functions leading to quick and necessary changes in the existing system: the unions to survive shall see a modern “dilemma” – i.e. between an individual and union’s “interests” in collective bargaining. The problem is huge for a lot of workers: thus, only in Denmark about 600 thousand employees in private labour market are facing this sort of issues. Existing system in some Nordic states doesn’t take so far the individual interests in the tripartite bargaining (among business, unions and government). Recent analysis has shown that about 43% of workers in private sector would rather make “individual arrangements” than go through collective bargaining.
c) Political economy and governance
Generally, to handle the pandemic’s aftermath, global and national governance structures have to change traditional decision-making with a view to tackle modern challenges. Although the pandemic is mainly a health problem, it also “shaking” the society’s basic pillars connected to politics and economics. Hence, major challenges in national governance in “after-pandemic” are those of an “unpredictable world”, getting ready for changes and able to use new priorities followed by improvements delivered by dramatic social and technological transformations. Therefore, the issues of incorporating the “challenging priorities” are to be the first in the list of the national governance measures. Reference to: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/
Attention to politics and governance’s needs a complex and systematic approach. Thus, almost all the challenges associated with the “post-COVID” syndrome are based on systematic analysis of expected changes in e.g. such issues as: a) the scope and function of “modern governance”, b) the “civil-servants-revolution” and the states’ integral parts, and c) relationships in the political economy’s system. Thus, systematic approach helps to understand the “whole picture” and effective modernisation of existing governance’s structures.
Bottom line: Predicting the future needs a strategic vision; modern challenges require decision-makers to understand the “signals” of potential threats. The researchers’ task – in advising national and the EU’s governance – is to provide empirical evidences of the needed changes and transformations even if at present these “evidences” (as well as decisions) are neither clearly seen nor commonly adaptive.
In this regard, new “consultative skills” could be recognized as a vital instrument in creating a “futuristic vision”. Numerous contemporary disruptive changes are already requiring both the events’ scientific analysis and drafting decisions to withstand the evolving growth patterns.
Therefore the main series’ idea is to turn the post-covid’s “remedy situation” to the economic advantage: in this sense, researchers require both new approaches in analytical “instruments” and in strategies for the governing elites to draft perspective economy, entrepreneurship and a workforce – all of which would be quite different from the existing patterns.
Thus, for the decision-makers it is not enough just “to better understand” changes; ultimately, researchers have to give “good recipes” to all those that need them! As to “instruments”, a new scientific discipline shall be envisaged: so-called “strategic future studies with a strategic foresight”. More generally, “futures studies” is a discipline that would broaden the exploration of alternative futures and deepen the investigation of the worldviews that underlie possible and preferable decision-making.
The Institute’s research is based on the assumption that the future is both a continuity of “the present” towards a better understanding of changes and multiplicity of the future scenarios; all that would allow a modern researcher to develop future-proof strategies that anticipate the consequences of alternative governance’s actions. Actually, a cultural leap from a reactive approach to an anticipatory one is needed too; this will only be possible if the decision-makers and those reading our articles would manage to embed the ideas mentioned in publications into the new knowledge and skills to be incorporated into governance strategies.
Today, the states and the civil societies may grab the great chance for a breakthrough which could bring them all to a better Europe with sustainable economic systems and increasingly mature societies. That is the best vision for a European Union’s integration, where the member states would cooperate closer to make people safer, happier and healthier…