Secu­rity in Times of Change

An intro­duc­tion to our report and a summary of our results.

Why “Secu­rity in Times of Change”?

We are living in a time of fun­da­men­tal changes, which are unfold­ing rapidly and simul­ta­ne­ously. These are trans­form­ing our soci­eties rad­i­cally and pose new chal­lenges for policy makers. Past expe­ri­ence can only play a small part in solving them. They include

  • glob­al­i­sa­tion
  • the digital revolution
  • global migra­tion
  • demo­graphic change
  • radical changes in gender and family relations
  • climate change as a symptom of eco­log­i­cal crisis.

Each of these phe­nom­ena alone con­sti­tutes a great chal­lenge in itself. They are mutu­ally rein­forc­ing, as is the case for climate change and migra­tion or digital rev­o­lu­tion and glob­al­i­sa­tion. Taken on intel­li­gently, these chal­lenges offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for a better future while at the same time har­bour­ing the poten­tial for sig­nif­i­cant social and polit­i­cal turbulence.

Con­stant change is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the modern age. Working and living envi­ron­ments are in a per­pet­ual state of flux, tra­di­tional alle­giances and cer­tain­ties are dis­solv­ing, the new is ousting the old. This dynamic has increased further with the end of the bipolar world and the onset of a new phase of glob­al­i­sa­tion. The last 30 years have been a period of accel­er­ated dis­con­ti­nu­ity. This holds true for eco­nom­ics, tech­nol­ogy and culture as much as for the indi­vid­ual. An increas­ing desire for secu­rity, con­sis­tency and belong­ing echoes this process. There is evi­dently a need for a certain “secu­rity cor­ri­dor” to be able to risk change. Only those who feel rea­son­ably secure will regard glob­al­i­sa­tion or the digital rev­o­lu­tion as an oppor­tu­nity rather than a threat.

Secu­rity is not an end in itself for the com­mis­sion. A fun­da­men­tal level of secu­rity is a pre­req­ui­site for anyone to fulfil their poten­tial. “Freedom from fear” is the mother of all free­doms. There­fore the ques­tion for the com­mis­sion was: what kind of reas­sur­ances does our plu­ral­ist society need to face tech­ni­cal, social and cul­tural change with self-con­fi­dence instead of fear?

Shaping the Change

Germany in 2019 is one of the most suc­cess­ful national economies. It is the most open society this country has ever known and is expe­ri­enc­ing the longest period of peace­time in its history as a member of the Euro­pean Union. Nev­er­the­less, there is a notice­able and increas­ing sense of inse­cu­rity, extend­ing to the middle classes. Although a large major­ity is sat­is­fied with their per­sonal life, many look ahead to the future with pes­simism. Con­fi­dence in the state’s and the polit­i­cal system’s plan­ning capac­i­ties has begun to falter. Many feel pow­er­less in the face of rapid changes. These are per­ceived as events going over the heads of indi­vid­u­als, events which can no longer be managed by policy makers

Growing inse­cu­rity and a loss of trust in the liberal order prepare the ground for the global advance­ment of author­i­tar­ian and nation­al­ist cur­rents. Support for iden­ti­tar­ian move­ments of national or reli­gious prove­nance is rising. They promise secu­rity by retreat­ing into the national circle of wagons, by shield­ing from inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion and the influx of strangers.

The key ques­tion is what answers liberal democ­racy can find to the chal­lenges of change and the result­ing inse­cu­rity. We cannot shield our­selves from the great changes of our time but rather have to take them on as a restruc­tur­ing task.

The guiding prin­ci­ple for demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics should not be secu­rity by iso­la­tion but rather secu­rity in times of change. This involves much more than simply adjust­ing to per­ceived factual con­straints. We have to shape trans­for­ma­tion processes proac­tively and strengthen trust in demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics’ ability to govern.

This includes an expan­sion of early warning systems for crises (mon­i­tor­ing) and crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tion of gov­ern­ment pro­grammes and agen­cies. Espe­cially in the face of complex changes in economy and society, the require­ment is for a “learn­ing state” that con­tin­u­ally assesses its activ­i­ties in order to refine or adjust them.

The objec­tive must be an increased social and demo­c­ra­tic resilience in our society – that is, more resilience in the face of shock-like changes as well as improve­ments to the capac­ity to find cre­ative solu­tions to new chal­lenges. The course that is set today will to a large part deter­mine which future we end up with. This holds equally true for the digital rev­o­lu­tion as for demo­graphic change or the climate change crisis.

Shaping the change means man­ag­ing change polit­i­cally and enabling people to keep pace with the chang­ing world. This also includes an element of pro­tec­tion. “A Europe that pro­tects” is a central catch­phrase of Emmanuel Macron. Nobody shall be unpro­tected at the mercy of radical change in economy and society; every­body has the right to sol­i­dar­ity and participation.

At the same time, it is para­mount to coun­ter­act our soci­eties’ divi­sion into winners and losers of tech­no­log­i­cal, cul­tural and eco­log­i­cal change. It under­mines liberal democracy’s promise of the same freedom for every­one. The con­flu­ence of growing inse­cu­rity and increas­ing inequal­ity creates an explo­sive con­flict sit­u­a­tion.  

Key Themes

The com­mis­sion covered the overall topic “secu­rity in times of change” along four key issues:

(1) Empow­er­ment of the indi­vid­ual for self-assured action: It is impor­tant to empower people to deal with tech­no­log­i­cal, social and cul­tural changes con­fi­dently. This is about “inter­nal secu­rity” in the literal sense – a secu­rity arising from the inside. How do we orient our edu­ca­tion system to strengthen everyone’s self-effi­cacy? Which knowl­edge and skills do we need in order to find our way in a rapidly chang­ing world, to shape the digital rev­o­lu­tion and to act in coop­er­a­tion with others?

Clearly, edu­ca­tion and further edu­ca­tion are essen­tial for success in a glob­ally-linked, knowl­edge-based society. The edu­ca­tion system is not yet well pre­pared for the new digital world and our society’s increas­ing socio-cul­tural heterogeneity.

The com­mis­sion submits a variety of pro­pos­als for this. Among them empir­i­cally-based, sus­tained edu­ca­tional plan­ning, more empha­sis on early years’ edu­ca­tion, the estab­lish­ment of minimum targets for stu­dents’ edu­ca­tional success, improved mon­i­tor­ing as well as improved funding for pre-schools and schools based on social indi­ca­tors. The right to “edu­ca­tion for all” should include a higher edu­ca­tion degree or a pro­fes­sional qualification.

The further edu­ca­tion sector con­tin­ues to be the poor rela­tion of edu­ca­tion policy. This urgently needs to change. “Life­long learn­ing” is becom­ing the new norm in the face of fun­da­men­tal change in employ­ment. The right to edu­ca­tion has to be extended to a right to further edu­ca­tion and must be under­pinned finan­cially. The col­lec­tive wage agree­ments nego­ti­ated between the Metal Workers’ Union IG Metall Baden-Würt­tem­berg and Süd­west­met­all leads the way in this, propos­ing a com­bi­na­tion of gainful employ­ment and further edu­ca­tion. The commission’s advice in this context is to sub­stan­ti­ate the concept of an “edu­ca­tional basic income” and to test its fea­si­bil­ity. Voca­tional col­leges should be extended to become tech­ni­cal further edu­ca­tion centres, and the tran­si­tion between voca­tional train­ing and third-level courses eased.

(2) The future of social secu­rity: Are our current social secu­rity systems fit for the future or do we need extended social cit­i­zens’ rights and new con­cepts for social par­tic­i­pa­tion against the back­drop of the digital rev­o­lu­tion and the antic­i­pated changes in the employ­ment system? The answer to this ques­tion depends in a large part on our image of the future effects of the digital rev­o­lu­tion and demo­graphic change. Both con­sti­tute pro­found change. They harbour the poten­tial to upset pre­vi­ous arrange­ments of work and social secu­rity. We are unable to foresee the future, a state­ment that is both true and banal. We can, however, attempt to antic­i­pate future devel­op­ments and to draft more-or-less plau­si­ble scenarios.

The com­mis­sion assumes that the new level of digi­ti­sa­tion (AI, robot­ics) will not lead to an “end of working society” in the fore­see­able future. It will prob­a­bly work more as a “changer of jobs” than as a “destroyer of jobs”. There will be sig­nif­i­cant upheaval in the world of work even in this sce­nario, however. Entire pro­fes­sional cat­e­gories and sectors will shrink, others will emerge. There will be wide­spread change in the scope of work and the required qual­i­fi­ca­tions. During pre­vi­ous phases of tech­ni­cal ratio­nal­i­sa­tion, the primary con­cerns were about the fear of job losses in indus­trial pro­duc­tion. Now, even pro­fes­sional ser­vices that were con­sid­ered safe up to this point and that pro­vided rel­a­tively high incomes are affected by digitisation.

A trend towards a decreased amount of work in automa­tised pro­duc­tion and in digi­ti­s­able ser­vices such as banks or insur­ance com­pa­nies will be coun­ter­bal­anced by an increased demand in research and devel­op­ment, con­trol­ling, further edu­ca­tion, health ser­vices and the care sector. The anal­o­gous world of things con­tin­u­ally requires pro­fes­sional skilled trades­peo­ple. The demand for basic ser­vices is also likely to increase further.

As long as employ­ment levels decrease only by degrees, the sub­sti­tu­tion of human work with machines and the decline in human resources due to demo­graphic change may be kept in balance. The growing number of older people in the general pop­u­la­tion and longer times spent in edu­ca­tion require a sig­nif­i­cant increase in labour pro­duc­tiv­ity to main­tain soci­etal pros­per­ity. Well-crafted digi­ti­sa­tion processes can work hand-in-hand with demo­graphic change here.

At the same time, new infor­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies open up oppor­tu­ni­ties for more energy and resource effi­ciency, intel­li­gent mobil­ity, improve­ments in working con­di­tions, decen­tralised pro­duc­tion, and supra-regional coop­er­a­tion as well as access to global markets for small and medium-size com­pa­nies. The serious social chal­lenge of the coming decades will most likely be the increas­ing polar­i­sa­tion into winners and losers of global com­pe­ti­tion and tech­ni­cal inno­va­tion. Par­al­lels to this can already be observed today in people suc­ceed­ing or falling behind within the employ­ment system. This finds its most obvious expres­sion in the growing gap between high and low wages and the emer­gence of a class of “working poor”. The inequal­ity of incomes and assets is also showing a ten­dency to increase in a digital economy.

The com­mis­sion con­sid­ers it unlikely that sub­stan­tial decou­pling of social secu­rity and gainful employ­ment will become nec­es­sary (and pos­si­ble). There will, however, be a need for new instru­ments of social par­tic­i­pa­tion that close justice gaps and com­pen­sate for deficits in the social secu­rity system. Among them is a new ini­tia­tive for the par­tic­i­pa­tion of wide sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion in capital assets, in order to ensure a wider spread of the digital div­i­dend as well as everyone’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in social wealth (“own­er­ship for all”). This would sup­ple­ment trade-union wage poli­cies, which are aiming for fair par­tic­i­pa­tion of the work­force in the national income. Strength­en­ing col­lec­tive wage agree­ments is an inte­gral part of “secu­rity in times of change”.Another major problem that needs to be addressed is the pro-active man­age­ment of eco­nomic struc­tural change, as this will be faster and more com­pre­hen­sive than to date. This will require expand­ing in-company and cross-company further train­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, includ­ing finan­cial pro­vi­sion for recur­ring learn­ing phases through­out working life (> chapter 1.2.2 Edu­ca­tional basic income & finan­cial pro­vi­sion for life­long learn­ing). The German Federal Employ­ment Agency should be devel­oped into an Employ­ment and Further Edu­ca­tion Agency, becom­ing more focused on the pre­ven­ta­tive qual­i­fi­ca­tion of employ­ees and sup­port­ing trans­for­ma­tion processes.

Mea­sures should be taken to secure the primacy of man over machines in the course of a pos­si­ble long-term change to a society where machines are better at most value-cre­at­ing activ­i­ties. In such a sce­nario pro­vi­sions must be made to com­pen­sate for a decline in gainful employ­ment with other sources of income (a basic income financed through taxes, capital assets, self-employment).

(3) “Inter­nal secu­rity” in the tra­di­tional sense, espe­cially uphold­ing the law and pro­tec­tion from vio­lence. In the face of vir­u­lent polit­i­cal and reli­gious extrem­ism, cross-border organ­ised crime as well as the heated dis­cus­sion about serious offences com­mit­ted by asylum seekers, the topic of inter­nal secu­rity gains new rel­e­vance. When defend­ing liberal democ­racy, the public’s need for secu­rity must be taken into account. The meaning of the concept of a “well-for­ti­fied democ­racy” must be rethought: how far do we want to go down the mined path of pre­ven­ta­tive secu­rity policy. The fun­da­men­tal legit­i­macy of the state is the pro­tec­tion of its cit­i­zens’ lives and their freedom. This oblig­a­tion must be met on both sides.

The com­mis­sion paid close atten­tion to secu­rity in the public space and non-violent polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion. Both are ele­men­tary achieve­ments of a civil society that must be defended. If the public space is per­ceived to be haz­ardous, freedom of move­ment is limited sig­nif­i­cantly (espe­cially for women). However right it is to promote tol­er­ance for the plain oth­er­ness of people, it is equally nec­es­sary to sys­tem­at­i­cally penalise serious rule vio­la­tions. An increased pres­ence of law enforce­ment agen­cies in social hotspots can improve the cit­i­zens’ feeling of secu­rity as much as plan­ning mea­sures and a housing policy that coun­ter­acts social seg­re­ga­tion. Vio­lence must not be tol­er­ated. This is also true for the use of vio­lence as a means of polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion. It is toxic to democ­racy. If it spreads, it destroys civil polit­i­cal culture.

The series of murders com­mit­ted by the group “National Social­ist Under­ground” (NSU) has mas­sively shaken con­fi­dence in public secu­rity forces, espe­cially among ethnic minori­ties. Recent news about extreme-right net­works within the police force and the army has increased this feeling of inse­cu­rity. The con­sti­tu­tional state is struck at its core when those made respon­si­ble for its pro­tec­tion take part in anti-con­sti­tu­tional activ­i­ties. Actions must be taken against this, using the legit­i­mate mea­sures of a con­sti­tu­tional state. At the same time, the secu­rity forces need the backing of both policy makers and the public when ful­fill­ing their con­sti­tu­tional obligations.

Polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion should be devel­oped further and geared more towards pre­vent­ing extrem­ism. Teach­ing staff must be better pre­pared for this. In crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, teams of experts must be avail­able to support schools, youth centres or penal insti­tu­tions locally.

(4) Finally, the com­mis­sion was con­cerned with the ques­tion of the role of public insti­tu­tions and an active civil society in times of fun­da­men­tal change.The public edu­ca­tion system (from kinder­garten to college), a wide network of museums, the­atres and concert halls, public service broad­cast­ing, libraries, public util­i­ties and trans­port ser­vices are not merely an expres­sion of “public pro­vi­sion”. They are at the same time insti­tu­tions of the repub­lic, sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of a demo­c­ra­tic com­mon­wealth that facil­i­tate par­tic­i­pa­tion and impart belong­ing. An invest­ment in socio-cul­tural infra­struc­ture is there­fore also an invest­ment in democracy.

In addi­tion, public insti­tu­tions serve as an anchor of sta­bil­ity in times of tur­bu­lent change. They further social cohe­sion and are central ele­ments of public pro­vi­sion. In recent decades, national, regional and local public invest­ment has been on the decrease (with the excep­tion of the East German Federal States after the fall of the wall), leading to an asset erosion in public infra­struc­ture. We are far behind with the pro­vi­sion of nation­wide high-speed data trans­mis­sion. At the same time, the social expen­di­ture share of public finances has increased. In the light of this, a “primacy for public invest­ment” should be the guide­line for national, regional and local budget policy.

Main­tain­ing public infra­struc­ture in regions of demo­graphic as well as eco­nomic con­trac­tion poses a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge. How can we ensure access to basic ser­vices (secu­rity, edu­ca­tion, health, mobil­ity, public admin­is­tra­tion) in eco­nom­i­cally under­de­vel­oped areas? The state’s with­drawal from rural areas does not only create social prob­lems but also pro­vides fertile ground for pop­ulist move­ments, which fuel con­flict between pros­per­ous large cities and the regions left behind.“Security in times of change” does not only take place by way of gov­ern­ment guar­an­tees. It is also depends sub­stan­tially on the “social capital” of our society, an exten­sive network of non-profit organ­i­sa­tions, char­i­ta­ble trusts, and welfare organ­i­sa­tions as well as a high level of active citizen par­tic­i­pa­tion in social and cul­tural issues. Even democ­racy depends heavily on an active civil society. Policy makers and public admin­is­tra­tions should support cit­i­zens’ par­tic­i­pa­tion and work with civil society stake­hold­ers to the best of their ability.

The com­mis­sion sup­ports an exten­sion of current instru­ments to promote vol­un­tary work (such as the vol­un­tary social year). In this context, the “citizen work” model should also be actively con­sid­ered. It would allow pro­fes­sion­als to take leave for a limited period in order to take an active part in char­i­ta­ble projects. They would receive a tax-financed basic income during this time. Partial pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion of vol­un­teer com­mit­ment could also be an answer to a pos­si­ble decline in paid work in the course of the digital revolution.

Local munic­i­pal­i­ties are the focal point for civic involve­ment as this is where inter­ac­tion between cit­i­zens and the state is at its closest and where cit­i­zens will be able to exert the biggest influ­ence. Local self-gov­ern­ment should be strength­ened and given better finan­cial support.  It offers greater room for manoeu­vre locally and thus forms an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion in strength­en­ing democracy.

It was neither mission nor intent of the com­mis­sion to draft radical visions of a com­pletely dif­fer­ent society. An unvar­nished depic­tion of neg­a­tive devel­op­ments and con­trib­u­tory factors in crises should neither result in resigned fatal­ism nor in fan­tasies of leaping into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent society. Rather, the com­mis­sion was guided by the maxim of improv­ing the con­di­tions, basing this on empir­i­cal find­ings and self-crit­i­cally eval­u­at­ing their effects. We need more bravery for exper­i­men­tal pol­i­tics, trying out new con­cepts in pilot projects before imple­ment­ing them on a large scale.

When con­di­tions change rad­i­cally, insti­tu­tions, polit­i­cal con­cepts and instru­ments also have to change. Both policy makers and civil society’s own ini­tia­tive are crit­i­cal for this.

Please down­load or read the full report (in German) here: 

Sicher­heit im Wandel_​Der Bericht


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