Rent cap in Denmark: rents may increase by a maximum of 4 percent

Denmark introduced a rent cap. The rents were set to rise by 10 percent because they are linked to inflation—as they are in Austria. But the Danish government has removed this link in order to ease the burden on households: rents may increase by a maximum of 4 percent until 2024, and increases that have already been made must even be reversed. 
In January, a letter arrived with the new rent—and it wasn’t a nasty surprise: For his 42-square-meter apartment in the middle of Copenhagen, the Dane will pay only 534 euros per month for 2023 instead of 623. The posting of the user “Piitaa-Pain” spread quickly on the Internet. The reason behind this is a rent cap introduced by the Danish government, which applies from January 2023. Denmark is governed by a coalition of social democrats, liberal conservatives and liberal moderates.
Rents to rise by 4 percent instead of 10 percent
In 2023 and 2024, rents in Denmark may rise by a maximum of 4 percent. Actually, rents in Denmark are linked to inflation, just like in Austria. So without government intervention, Danish property owners would have been allowed to raise rents by almost 10 percent. The 4 percent maximum cap applies to existing and new leases, but also to rents that have been increased above the 4 percent in recent months—those must be reduced again.
“It is crucial for the Danish government to take care of Danish tenants. They should not be forced out of their homes and apartments because of rampant inflation,” Interior and Housing Minister Christian Rabjerg Madsen said in a statement.
Madsen’s ministry presented the law limiting rent increases in September. The Danish government is also working on a new law on rent adjustment from 2025, because even then rents will no longer be able to be increased automatically by inflation.
Rents rise by 8.6 percent in Austria
In Austria, too, there is a discussion about a cap on rent increases: for almost 400,000 leases, rents will rise by 8.6 percent in April 2023 – after rent increases last year of over 6 percent. The reason is the automatic increase in rent by inflation (the “consumer price index”) stipulated in the law. In January, the Social Democrats in the National Council propose that the rent increase be completely suspended until 2025 and then capped at two percent.
Property owners are naturally opposed to this, saying that they would then lack the money to maintain the buildings. The Danish government met this objection: If property owners can prove large investments that are not covered by current rents, they can raise rents above 4 percent in exceptional cases. Landlords are not happy about this either and complain about the bureaucratic effort. Experts assume that this very rarely apply to any case.
All in all, according to the government’s calculations, Danes will save 2.7 billion Danish kroner (about 360 million euros) in additional rental costs. Denmark’s inflation rate reached 10.1% in October, its highest level in four decades, but has since fallen to 8.7%. Rent caps also exist in Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and France.
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Nobel Prize Winner Stiglitz wants 70% tax on top incomes

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz is concerned about increasing social inequality in the world. The gap between rich and poor is widening. To reverse the trend, he calls for the super-rich to pay a higher income tax and a wealth levy. He says introducing a special global tax rate of 70 percent for top earners “would clearly make sense.”
“People at the top might then work a little less if you tax them more. But on the other hand, our society benefits from a more egalitarian society with greater cohesion,” the former World Bank chief economist explained in Oxfam’s “Equals” podcast, summarized by the British newspaper The Guardian.
Current top tax rates are much lower than what Stiglitz has in mind. A few examples

In the U.S., the top tax rate is 37 percent for incomes above $539,901.
The top tax rate in the U.K. is 45 percent on annual incomes above 150,000 pounds.
In Austria, the rate is 55 percent, but only for annual incomes above one million euros.
In Germany, the top tax rate is paid from an annual income of around 278,000 euros—it is 45 percent.

Only four European Countries have a wealth tax: Spain, Norway, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Joseph Stiglitz: Getting rich is a question of chance—not performance
Stiglitz explained in the podcast that such a new, higher top tax would lead to more redistribution—but at the same time one must also tax wealth fairly. Because that way, the richest people in the world would make a fair contribution, whose wealth has been accumulated over generations. According to Stiglitz, a global wealth tax would have an even greater impact in combating social inequality.
“We should tax wealth more heavily, because a lot of the wealth is now inherited. For example, the young Walmart’s inherited their wealth“, Stiglitz cited as an example.
“One of my friends describes it as winning the sperm lottery. You got the ‘right’ parents. I think we have to realize that most billionaires got a lot of their wealth just by luck.“
The Nobel Prize winner considers U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposals for a 2 percent tax on wealth of more than $50 million and a 3 percent tax on wealth of more than $1 billion “very reasonable.” He believes that would “really do a lot to raise revenue that could be used to alleviate some problems our country faces.“
The crisis has made rich even richer
According to Stiglitz, the Corona pandemic has exacerbated social inequality around the world to an “astonishing” degree and “both exposed and exacerbated global inequalities.“
“At a time when so many people’s lives have been so difficult, when they have lost their jobs, when food prices have risen and oil prices have risen, it is shocking how many people and rich companies have made off like bandits,” Stiglitz criticized.
Oxfam study: For the first time in 25 years, extreme wealth and extreme poverty are growing simultaneously
A recent Oxfam study showed that nearly two-thirds of the wealth accumulated since the pandemic began has gone to the richest 1 percent. The charity found that the best-off will have amassed $26 billion in new assets by the end of 2021. That’s 63 percent of all new wealth, with the rest going to the remaining 99 percent of people.
As a result, for the first time in 25 years, the rise in extreme wealth has been accompanied by an increase in extreme poverty. 
The charity said that a tax of up to 5 percent on multimillionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year for the world. That, in turn, would be enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty and end world hunger.
“While millions of people don’t know how to pay for food and energy, the crises of our time are bringing gigantic increases in wealth for billionaires and billionaires’ wives,” said Oxfam spokesman Manuel Schmitt.
200 super-rich call for global wealth taxes
More than 200 members of the super-rich elite have written to governments around the world in the run-up to the World Economic Forum in Davos calling on them to “tax us, the super-rich, now” to tackle the crisis of inequality. “Patriotic Millionaires”, “Tax me Now” and “Millionaires for Humanity” were behind the campaign.
Among the signatories are Disney heirs Abigail and Tim Disney and “Hulk” actor Mark Ruffalo. Marlene Engelhorn from Austria also participated in the protest—she delivered the letter on site.

Members Phil White and Marlene Engelhorn protest the World Economic Forum in Davos.
It’s time to #TaxTheRich.
— Patriotic Millionaires (@PatrioticMills) January 17, 2023

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EU to severely restrict export of waste to third countries

The European Parliament voted in favor of a law that restricts the export of waste. Waste from the EU should be processed in an environmentally friendly way—and no longer exported on a large scale to third countries in the EU. There, it often pollutes entire regions via landfills or is incinerated and damages the environment.
On January 17, 2023, the European Parliament voted in Strasbourg in favor of a law that restricts the export of waste from the EU to countries outside the Union. The goal is to reduce pollution and ensure that materials like plastic are reused and recycled instead of thrown away. The whole thing is part of the European Green Deal.
In the future, waste is to be exported only to certain countries outside the OECD area—and they must prove that they process the waste in an environmentally friendly way. For hazardous waste, exports are to be banned altogether. Overall, less waste is to be shipped around the world and less processed in a way that is harmful to the climate, for example incinerated.
“Out of sight, out of mind: this is how we in the EU currently deal with our mountains of waste. In doing so, we not only export our problem, but also leave the task of fair disposal to countries outside the EU. The consequences of this are often illegal landfills, the price of which is paid by the environment and local people,” criticizes Delara Burkhardt, environmental policy spokeswoman for the Socialist S&D Group in the EU Parliament. So now that is to change.
The Parliament’s report on the EU Waste Shipment Regulation was adopted by a large majority: 594 votes in favor, 5 against and 43 abstentions. Talks between the European Parliament and EU member states are to take place this year to finalize the text. Only then can the law come into force.
Most EU waste ends up in Turkey
The amount of waste exchanged around the world is steadily increasing, with 182 million tons traded in 2018, according to the OECD. The European Union plays a central role in this: according to Eurostat, the European Union exported 33 million tons of waste to non-EU countries in 2021. That’s a 77 percent increase over 2004, and Turkey was the main destination for EU waste last year, with about 14.7 million tons—three times as much as in 2004.
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The second-highest amount of EU waste was exported to India this year—about 2.4 million tons. The countries behind are Egypt and Switzerland, with 1.9 and 1.7 million tons, respectively. Eurostat reports that the amount of waste shipped from the EU to China has decreased significantly in recent years. Namely, from a peak of 10.1 million tons in 2009 to 0.4 million tons in 2021.
The EU-Parliament also agreed on a new directive to give platform workers more rights. Including minimum wage, social security and paid vacation. As well as on a new pay transparency directive to end the pay gap between men and women.
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Vegan pies, shirts made from coffee grounds, and fan urine-based fertiliser: how Forest Green Rovers became the world’s first carbon neutral club

Third tier English football club Forest Green Rovers are grabbing the footballing world’s attention through their climate friendly practices. The world’s first carbon-neutral club have a fully vegan half-time menu, shirts made from recycled coffee grounds, and are now fertilizing their fully organic pitch with the urine of away fans. They lead the way in a sport so vulnerable to climate change that it stands as an existential threat.
Following two world cups marred by controversy, years of oil state, oligarch and hedge fund involvement at the highest level, and the ever-rising cost of following the world’s most popular sport, it’s easy to see why many people are falling out of love with football. Swimming against the tide, English League One outfit Forest Green Rovers are the unsuspecting source of a seldom found footballing good news story. While elite clubs across the world flirt with oil state ownership and the riches that come with it, “The Green” have staged an in-house revolution to become the first United Nations recognised carbon neutral football club.
While growing inequality in the footballing sphere is a central concern for those interested in the longevity of the game, many are unaware of football’s contribution to climate change. Sport as a whole has a global carbon footprint equivalent to Tunisia, and football with it’s never ending traveling for away days, continental competitions, equipment manufacturing, and stadiums large enough to host a small city’s worth of people, is the greatest contributor of all.
The emission heavy nature of football is self-destructive. A study in England found that one quarter of English league football grounds will be at risk from flooding every season if global warming continues at its current rate. On top of this, players will be expected to play through exhausting warmer temperatures, and games will increasingly be called off or made impossible to reach for fans because of extreme weather events.
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Those involved in the sport are slowly waking up to the scale of the problem though. In 2015, Carlisle United were forced to close their stadium for three months at a cost of three million pounds due to flooding damage caused by Storm Desmond. When a 2021 study revealed that the storm was 59% more likely to occur because of climate change, the Carlisle manager was quick to push for climate friendly progress.
So how did this club, playing in the third level of English football in front of an average attendance of below 4,000 people, become the first UN recognised carbon neutral football club and grab the attention of the world’s top teams?
Their transformation began in 2010 with the takeover of the club by Dale Vince, a green energy industrialist who wanted to transfer his knowledge and ambitions to a new project. He quickly banned the players from eating red meat, and soon after changed the food available at the stadium to an all vegan menu. In addition, he installed solar panels to the stadium in order to cut emissions, created the world’s first organic football pitch, and even brought in a solar powered lawnmower to maintain it. For the fans, Vince introduced football shirts made from recycled coffee grounds and will only release a newly designed kit every two years. Along with greatly cutting emissions, it removes financial pressures from fans who may struggle to afford the newest design each season.
The most recent eyebrow raising move by the club came in 2022 as they revealed that the urine of away fans would be converted into clean water and fertiliser. A spokesperson for the club said:
“Space mission-inspired closed loop technology will convert fans’ urine into clean water and a concentrated fertiliser product, both of which can be used to keep the pitch in top condition… the award-winning modular units will treat wastewater from the urinals through on-site physical treatment. The modules also have the potential for further treatment options of wastewater from the toilets and handwashing facilities to produce compost and flush water.”
The next move for Forest Green is the construction of their planned Eco Park Stadium, a new home for the club, which is set to be the greenest in the world. It will be built almost entirely with sustainably sourced wood and is to be fitted out with electric car and bike charging stations among other eco-friendly facilities.
The kind of outside the box thinking shown by Forest Green, while easy to laugh at for opposing fans, is what is needed on a mass scale should the football industry wish to curb its self-destructive practices.
Hailed the “greenest team in the world” by FIFA, they have reduced their emissions by 42% since 2011 and have mockingly been called “dirty vegans” by rival fans along the way. This nickname is worn as a badge of honor though, and is one that more clubs should aspire to.
While Forest Green are a shining example of how to operate in a climate friendly fashion, not enough clubs are following suit. Should those from every level of the footballing hierarchy wish to continue playing as they have for well over 150 years, they will need to accept progress and make the switch to a cleaner way of operation. Läs mer…

England bans single-use plastic products and packaging

England bans single-use plastic products. From October, plastic tableware, Styrofoam cups and certain food packaging may no longer be sold or used. This excludes packaging for ready meals. The ban applies to retail and food retailers, as well as snack bars and restaurants. Environmental organizations criticize this as insufficient. 
It is estimated that 2.7 billion disposable knives, forks, cups, and plates are used in England every year. Most of them are made of plastic. If they were strung together, they would go around the world more than 8 times. The big problem: Just 10 percent of them are recycled. Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, has now announced a ban on single-use plastic products. It will apply from October. 
Ban on plastic plates, cups, cutlery and certain packaging
From October 2023, single-use plastic plates, cups, cutlery, bowls and trays will be banned. The same applies to polystyrene cups (e.g., from vending machines) and certain food packaging. Packaging for ready meals is exempt. In the future, these products may then neither be sold nor used in retail outlets, snack bars or restaurants.
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Greenpeace criticizes the exemptions and calls the ban insufficient. The organization A Plastik Planet is also calling for further measures. Above all, they want a ban on the small plastic bags for mini-portions such as ketchup, soy sauce or cosmetic products. 

Check out A Plastic Planet’s co-founder, @siansutherland, speaking on Sky News this morning on the announcement of England’s new plastic bans.
Sian says, “Finally, the government is enacting this ban but imagine if we went further and changed the system not just the material.”
— A Plastic Planet (@aplastic_planet) January 14, 2023

Single-use plastic products: EU bans production—manufacturers must pay for cleaning
The European Union already enacted a similar ban in 2019. It bans the production of single-use plastic products such as plastic straws, cotton swabs and balloon sticks. Fast-food packaging made of Styrofoam is also banned. 
According to the directive on avoiding single-use plastic products, all plastic bottles must also be made of at least 30 percent recycled material from 2023. In addition, disposable products that are particularly harmful to the environment (cigarette filters, balloons, and hygiene products with plastic content) must be labeled.
The ban puts the onus on producers, as manufacturers of plastic products such as cigarette filters, fishing nets and plastic bags must now contribute to the costs of environmental cleaning. 
The directive aims to combat pollution of the environment and, above all, pollution of the ocean. 
Every minute, a truckload of plastic enters the sea
Products made of plastic are extremely long-lasting, degrade very slowly and mostly incompletely. They often end up as microplastics in the oceans. If there is no change in the way we handle single-use plastic products, there will be more than 12 billion tons of plastic in the environment by 2050, according to the UN. 
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Environmental organizations like Green Peace estimate that a truckload of plastic ends up in the ocean every minute. Much of this is single-use plastic products. If this continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2030.  Läs mer…

Historic appointment: Brazil gets first indigenous minister with Sônia Guajajara

Brazil is getting a new Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, has more indigenous deputies than ever before, and is getting its first female indigenous minister with the appointment of Sônia Guajajara. Who is this woman, and what will change for the indigenous population now? 
More than 256 different indigenous peoples live in Brazil. Yet their interests and concerns have received little attention. The history of the indigenous population in Brazil is partly a history of displacement, exploitation, and exclusion. Especially under the extreme right-wing ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, illegal land and raw material theft increased again. With his disastrous environmental policy, he destroyed not only the habitat, but also the livelihood of many indigenous peoples.
With the inauguration of the new left-wing president Lula da Silva, something seems to be changing: With five deputies, more indigenous politicians are joining Brazil’s National Congress than ever before.
In addition, a newly created ministry looks after the concerns and interests of the indigenous population. The Ministry for Indigenous Peoples is headed by activist Sônja Guajajara. This is another milestone in the country’s history: For she is Brazil’s first indigenous minister.
Sônia Guajajara: Brazil’s first female indigenous minister
The U.S. magazine TIME has named Sônia Guajajara one of the 100 most influential people of 2022. The 48-year-old is one of Brazil’s best-known activists. She fights for the rights of the indigenous population, for the preservation of their cultures and against environmental destruction and the theft of land and raw materials.
She appeared with Greta Thunberg and Javier Bardem at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, and was asked by Alicia Keys to take the stage at Rock in Rio (2017) to reiterate her demands to protect the Amazon.
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Sônia Bone de Souza Silva Santos, who bears the name of her people Guajajara, was born in 1979 in Arariboia, a reservation in the state of Maranhão. At the age of ten, she left her village to go to school. After attending secondary school, she graduated in literature and completed postgraduate studies in special education.
In March 2022, she was among 151 international feminists who signed the Feminist Resistance Against War: A Manifesto in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Demands of the indigenous peoples: An end to mining in their own territories, more participation, and easier territorial claims
Before she was sworn in as minister, she coordinated the campaigns of the Association of Brazilian Indigenous People (APIB). This association published a 10-point plan with demands to the new government when Da Silva took office.
Right at the beginning, the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples has the chance to prove itself by responding to the demands of the Association of Indigenous Brazilians (APIB). The association is demanding the immediate repeal of seven normative legal acts of the previous government. Among them, for example, the decree that allows mining on the territories of indigenous peoples.
Sônia Guajajara campaigns for land rights and recognition for Brazil’s indigenous peoples. First as an activist, now as a minister (photo: Midia Ninja/CC by SA-2.0)
One of the most important demands is the repeal of the “Marco Temporal” decree. According to this decree, indigenous peoples may only claim an area if they can prove that they lived there before the Brazilian constitution came into force in 1988. But such proof is de facto impossible. This is because if the indigenous peoples had already been evicted, they would have to prove that they had already submitted a claim to reoccupy the land at that time.
Until 1988, however, the indigenous population was under the guardianship of FUNAI. Thus, they had no legal means of appealing to the judiciary through their own representation. FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio) ensures that the rights of indigenous populations. Since 2019, it has been under the authority of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.
In the past 2022 elections, Guajajara was elected to the National Congress in the state of São Paulo. She is now one of five indigenous deputies in Congress.
In early January, President Lula da Silva made her minister for the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. She is one of 37 ministers in the new government—only 11 of whom are women.
Bolsonaro prevented land restitution—Lula wants turnaround
The far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro blocked and delayed with the Marco Temporal any attempts by the indigenous population to protect or reclaim their rightful habitat. The government of Lula da Silva declares the inhumane policies of its predecessor to be over and wants to stand up for the rights of all Brazilians again in the future. This includes the indigenous peoples.
More than 1,000 territories are currently being reclaimed by indigenous peoples. 731 applications are currently being processed.
Never before have so many indigenous deputies entered the National Congress
Mario Juruna was the first indigenous deputy at the national level in 1983. It took another 35 years for Joênia Wapichana to become the first indigenous woman elected to Congress.
With the latest election, five deputies now enter the National Congress as representatives of the indigenous peoples. Among them are Sônia Guajajara and the human rights activist Célia Xakriabá. These are only a few, and yet they are more numerous than ever before. Läs mer…

EU: Companies with more than 100 employees must disclose wages to make pay gaps visible

The European Council, the Commission and the Parliament have agreed on the main points of the new EU Pay Transparency Directive. The directive aims to end the pay gap between women and men. In the future, companies with more than 100 employees will have to publish average salaries for the same work or work of equal value. Gender pay gaps must be eliminated in cooperation with social partners. Otherwise, there is a threat of fines. 
“Today is a good day, not just for women, but for all workers,” says Evelyn Regner, vice president of the EU Parliament. She has fought for years for the EU directive for pay transparency. In December, the European Council, the EU Commission and the Parliament have now agreed on the most important points of the directive. An essential step, because in Europe, women still earn on average 14 percent less than men in comparable positions. 
Employees gain insight into wage levels
Above all, a lack of transparency makes it difficult to reduce the gender pay gap. It is considered one of the main obstacles. The new directive aims to change that. In the future, all employees of a company will be able to see the wage structures of their colleagues—at least for people who do the same or comparable work. It does not matter how large a company is. 
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Information about individual wages or the average wage for the same or comparable work forms the basis for fair pay regardless of gender. After all, this is the only way to make discriminatory wage differences visible and correct them through complaints or legal action. 
“With the new law, we have made good progress towards reducing the gender pay gap and ensuring that all employees in Europe receive the same pay for the same work or work of equal value” Evelyn Regner, Vice President of the EU Parliament. 
Companies must disclose any wage differentials between male and female employees
Companies with more than 100 employees must make wage structures publicly available and report them to a monitoring body. It must be made clear whether there are differences or pay gaps between the sexes. 
If the wage gap exceeds 5 percent, the company must develop and implement measures in cooperation with the social partners (e.g., employee representatives, trade unions). However, only if the difference cannot be attributed to objective factors. 
The disclosed data will make cross-industry comparisons possible. This will make the full extent of wage inequality (even) more visible. This will also increase awareness of the problem for employers and employees. 
Penalties and sanctions for violating the EU Pay Transparency Directive
The directive places greater responsibility on individual companies and EU member states. They must publish wage data, make it available to the public and the workforce, and report it to a monitoring body. In the event of violations, the companies concerned face fines. These are to be set and enforced by the member states. 
The newly gained transparency gives employees the opportunity to stand up for their rights from the outset. Companies that pay women and men unequally will have a harder time in the future. 
HR managers are no longer allowed to ask about applicants’ current salaries.
Wage inequality often begins in the job interview. Applicants are asked about their current salary, which then serves as the starting point for negotiations. This deepens gender pay gaps. With the new directive, HR managers will no longer be allowed to do this.
The EU-Parliament also agreed on a new directive to give platform workers more rights. Including minimum wage, social security and paid vacation. Läs mer…

EU Directive: Minimum wage, social security and paid vacation for platform workers

Despite massive pressure from platform operators, the EU Parliament agrees on a directive for more rights for platform workers. In principle, they will be considered employees—with all employment and social security rights. That means: minimum wage, paid vacation, social security and benefits in case of illness and unemployment. The directive is set to end the precarious working conditions of platform work, make the algorithms used more transparent and bring 5.5 million people out of bogus self-employment. 
More than 28 million people in the EU currently work for a digital platform. They deliver food for Deliveroo, clean for Helping, or drive for Uber. The European Council expects that number to rise to 43 million by 2025. The vast majority work independently. It is estimated that 5.5 million of them are false self-employed. As a result, they do not receive the social and legal protection to which they are entitled by law. The new directive aims to change that. 
EU-Directive for platform work: More protection and rights for employees
Platform operators like to present themselves as the pioneers of flexible, modern and self-determined work. What sounds good on paper, however, creates precarious working conditions in reality. Almost 5.5 million people in the EU suffer from this. This is because they work as bogus self-employed workers, although according to the definition they should be employees. 
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They have no social security, no sick pay, no paid vacation and no collective bargaining. They struggle with irregular working hours, high workloads and constant availability. Platform operators are the main beneficiaries. 
“Protecting all workers in the digital age should be as easy as ordering food or a cab by smartphone. All employees are entitled to employee and social rights, i.e., fair pay, social security, sick pay and inclusion in collective bargaining. Agnes Jongerius, employment policy spokeswoman of the S&D Group.
With the new Directive on Platform Work, platform workers in principle will be employees—with all employment and social security rights. The burden of proof with regard to employment status will lie with the platforms in the future. This means that platform operators will have to prove that it is not an employment relationship but a self-employed activity.  
Are Platform workers employees?
The EU-Directive formulates control criteria that determine whether a digital work platform is an employer. If two of the following criteria apply, then this is the case:
Criteria that defines digital work platforms as employer

Determination of the amount of remuneration or setting of upper limits for remuneration.
Monitoring of work performance, including by electronic means (e.g., algorithms)
Restriction of the freedom to choose working hours or absences, to accept or decline tasks, or to use the services of subcontractors or substitute employees
Prescribing certain binding rules regarding appearance and behavior toward the recipient of the service or regarding work performance
Restricting the ability to build a customer base or perform work for third parties
If a digital platform is an employer, then the employees are entitled to full employment and social security rights. This includes the minimum wage (if there is one), regulated working hours and health protection, paid vacation, unemployment and sickness benefits, as well as a retirement pension and involvement in collective bargaining.

If a digital platform is an employer, then the employees are entitled to full employment and social security rights. This includes the minimum wage (if there is one), regulated working hours and health protection, paid vacation, unemployment and sickness benefits, as well as a retirement pension and involvement in collective bargaining. 
More algorithmic transparency
Many platform operators use algorithms to organize and control their employees. Yet most algorithms resemble a black box. Decisions they make are not comprehensible to those affected. Who is hired, who is terminated, how is performance evaluated, and who gets new assignments?
The new directive will make these processes more transparent. Employees should also be able to legally challenge automated decisions. In addition, humans will have to monitor the working conditions and not, as in some cases, algorithms. Above all, algorithms should not have access to the sensitive and personal data of employees (gender, origin, political views, trade union membership). 
The directive now comes to vote in trilogue with Council and Commission
A large majority in the relevant committee of the Parliament adopted the text of the directive. It will form the basis for negotiations in the upcoming trilogue with the Council and the EU Commission.  Läs mer…

A 4-day week feels like a world without cars for the climate

A comprehensive review of studies from Great Britain shows: Shorter working hours—in the form of a 4-day week—bring relief for the people and the climate. Because not only are we less burdened, so is the environment. In the UK, switching to a four-day week with full wage compensation would save as much CO₂ as taking all private cars off the roads.
Climate awareness in society has probably never been as high as it is now. At least when it comes to the urgency of counteracting climate collapse. According to a survey by the Austrian Climate Ministry, 8 out of 10 are convinced that we have to change our daily behavior in order to stop the climate crisis. The open question that remains is: how? Because small reforms are not enough. We know that here and in other countries.
A review of international studies now shows that a real turnaround in climate policy could be achieved in an area that many people do not even suspect—our working hours. Specifically, if we shorten them. This would achieve several goals at once: it would make the distribution of time more equitable, employees would stay healthy longer, and CO₂-intensive private car use would decline rapidly.
The 4-day week in the UK could save over a fifth of CO₂ consumption
UK environmental scientist:in Laurie Mompelat, together with economist:in Mika Minio-Paluello, has broken down that if the entire UK switched to a 4-day week, the country’s CO₂ footprint could be reduced by 127 million tons per year. That’s a reduction of more than a fifth (21.3 percent overall)—so it’s a very big deal. It would thus have the same effect as taking all private cars (roughly 27 million cars) off the road.
The 4-day week as a tool for more climate protection could make up for much that has been missed or simply not achieved so far. Between 1990 and 2016, the UK managed to reduce emissions within its borders by 41 percent, but emissions resulting from the consumption of goods and services fell by only 15 percent. The latter CO₂ emissions are released abroad—through the production of clothing, electronics or processed food, for example—but are attributed to the British footprint. And consumption issues in particular would have to be addressed individually—which is considered difficult and slow.
Sociologist Juliet Schor: longer working hours cause more emissions
Reducing overall working hours, however, could play a central role in decarbonizing the country. One day less work per week also means one day less commuting, less energy consumption in many businesses—including offices—and less CO₂-intensive activities in private households due to the increase in time prosperity. So people also simply have more time for activities and activities that are slower and more time-intensive, but more environmentally friendly. Sociologist Juliet Schor summarizes the relationship succinctly: “Longer working hours mean more emissions. Fewer hours mean fewer emissions. This relationship is called the scale effect, concerning the size of the economy. So: more work means a bigger economy, means more production. And more production is associated with more emissions.” Schor is studying the 4-day-Work-Week in several countries.
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Even away from the workplace, a decrease in emissions is evident when we have more free time. German technology researcher Philipp Frey explains:
“In fact, at least in Europe and North America, using satellite measurements, a positive correlation can be observed between work days, where more is emitted, and weekend days, which tend to be days off, where less is emitted. Emissions on a work day are almost twice as high as on the weekend.”
When it comes to the climate, we can’t just talk about doing without, but about how we reorganize work
When we have more free time—and therefore less stress—we are more likely to decide to do things on foot, by public transport or by bike. We go shopping instead of shopping online, we cook ourselves instead of resorting to frozen and convenience foods. The positive consequences for our climate cannot be overstated, according to Philipp Frey of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Research:
“On the one hand, reductions in working hours can make a contribution to combating the climate catastrophe, and at the same time they are attractive for employees. On the other hand, they are attractive for employees. This gives us the opportunity to get out of a discourse about doing without—and into a debate about how we can increase our prosperity in terms of time. And from this perspective, it’s also a good sign that the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explicitly mentions working time reduction as a possible climate protection measure.”
Laurie Mompelat and Mika Minio-Paluello also cite the potential savings in CO₂ consumption through a general reduction in working hours—and also summarize other studies conducted internationally.
Effect 1: Electricity consumption decreases—less heating, fewer electronics
Studies show that a reduction in weekly working hours is generally accompanied by a significant reduction in energy consumption. This is because you save electricity that would otherwise be consumed at the workplace. This is because many devices that are typical in offices, for example, are then in use less. Lighting, heating, elevators, computers, canteens. Energy consumption also drops in the manufacturing sector.
In a large-scale experiment conducted between 2008 and 2009 in the U.S. state of Utah, 17,000 public employees were switched to a four-day week. There, it was shown that enormous energy savings were possible as a result of a work-free Friday. 6,000 tons a year could be saved in Utah by a 4-day week, an interim report on the experiment noted. 12,000 tons if commuting savings are added.
In 2020, Autonomy published a report that concluded: a 3-day weekend could reduce CO₂ emissions by 117,000 tons in the UK—per week.
Effect 2: Commuting decreases
A shorter working week also means less CO₂ caused by cars due to less commuting. In a study by the University of Reading, 2,000 employees and entrepreneurs were surveyed on commuting behavior. Two out of three companies that offered a 4-day week said their employees now drove less. If you extrapolate this to the population, the potential for savings is huge: after all, one in two employed people in the UK currently either drive themselves to work or are passengers. In rural areas, three out of four employees travel to work by car.
If everyone worked one day less per week, millions of cars would disappear from the road (Photo: Sorin Gheorghita/Unsplash).
Effect 3: Private consumption becomes more climate-friendly
A number of studies have examined the impact of working hours on individual household consumption and energy-intensive behavior. One U.S. study combined calculations of the CO₂ impact of goods with data from consumer spending and concluded that households with longer working hours have a significantly larger CO₂ footprint.
In the University of Reading study, two out of three respondents said they would spend the extra day off with family and friends. One in two would cook more at home, and one in four would volunteer in the local area. As a rule, these are activities that are not only fulfilling, but also climate-friendly and good for social coexistence.
Effect 4: Our leisure activities slow down
More free time creates space for more CO₂-poor activities: reading, playing, sports, time with the family. Watching a movie for a change, more walking, more continuing education—in short, deceleration, and self-actualization. Research into the impact of the reduction in working hours in France has demonstrated clear trends toward more domestic and lower-carbon activities. The introduction of the 35-hour work week in France has greatly changed the daily routines of employees.
Contrary to what many feared, people did not use their time off to consume more. Instead, they took care of themselves and lived more relaxed lives.
Effect 5: Shorter working hours are good for our health—even saving CO₂
With a three-day weekend—and more free time—we can spend more time outdoors, complete trips on foot, and be less stressed. Long work hours are associated with stress and an increased risk of burn-out, musculoskeletal complaints and mental illness. Treating all of this, costs money—and consumes resources: medications have long delivery routes, healthcare facilities need energy, and patients and family members as well as staff have to travel distances.
In summary, it is clear that we should think about and shape climate protection and our working hours in a networked way. Productivity has always increased in recent decades. And in the areas where no classic leaps in productivity are possible—health care, nursing, elementary education, education—employees already rarely work full time because the workload of these jobs is high. The path toward shorter working hours would therefore be clear. All that’s missing is the political will.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite / Kathrin Glösel as the original source/author and set a link to this article on
The rights to the content remain with the original publisher. Läs mer…

Gas price brake, rent cap & tax-free food: Spain most successful in fighting inflation in the EU

Spain has the lowest inflation rate in the EU. What are the Spanish under Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez doing differently—and better? First and foremost, gas price caps and the rent brake are curbing prices. Next year, they will go one step further: VAT on basic foodstuffs will fall, making food cheaper in one fell swoop.
Left-ruled Spain now announced, at the end of December, the third major anti-inflation aid package this year to relieve the Spanish population from inflation. This package includes 10 billion euros, bringing the total amount that the government of Pedro Sánchez (of the socialist PSOE) has put in place since the beginning of the year to cushion inflation to 45 billion euros.
First, the aid package includes a one-time payment of 200 euros for about 4.2 million low-income households (up to about 27,000 euros) and an extension of tax cuts on energy bills for the first half of next year. In addition, all pensions are to be increased by 8.5 percent, and particularly low pensions by as much as 15 percent.
Success in Spain: lower electricity prices and the lowest inflation rate in the EU
There has already been direct aid, concessions on loans and price brakes: rents in the country may increase by a maximum of two percent per year. According to Sanchez, the aim is to ensure that aid reaches those who really need it.
In particular, the gas price brake, which Spain and Portugal were the first in Europe to introduce in May, proved to be an effective intervention to curb prices. Compared with November last year, electricity prices fell by over 22 percent. The gas price brake is in place for 12 months and ensures that gas costs a maximum of 50 euros per megawatt hour. By comparison, wholesale gas prices peaked at 1,000 euros per MWh in the summer.
Inflation over the past 12 months slowed to 6.7 percent in November. It is the lowest rate of the 27 EU member states.
Spain has the lowest inflation rate in the EU (photo: Eurostat)
Bread and milk tax-free: Sánchez government will reduce food prices
Currently, food prices are a thorn in the sight of the population, but also of the government. This is because they have risen by 15 percent compared with the fall of last year.
That’s why Spain’s government announced that it will reduce VAT next year on staple foods such as bread, cheese, milk, fruit and vegetables, and cereals from 4 percent to 0 percent. For pasta and cooking oils, the VAT will be cut in half to 5 percent, he said.
Sánchez also said he would extend subsidies for train commuters for another year and further limit rent increases.
However, the reduction in the price of gasoline for consumers:inside, except the transport industry, will be discontinued.
The result of the left-wing government’s policies: economic growth in Spain was more than 5 percent in 2022 and therefore even exceeded government forecasts. The country will be able to avoid a recession next year.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite / Kathrin Glösel as the original source/author and set a link to this article on
The rights to the content remain with the original publisher. Läs mer…

New AI-technology could help early detection of breast cancer 

In 2020, breast cancer amounted for 13,3 percent of newly diagnosed cancer cases in the European Union making it the most frequently occurring cancer type in the EU. On average, one in eleven European women develops breast cancer before the age of 74. An Indian Start-Up has now developed a new device that could help early detection of breast cancer with the help of AI. 
Breast cancer counts as the most common cancer worldwide. While it mostly affects women, a percentage of up to one percent of all cases has been diagnosed in men. Even though breast cancer marks the primary cause for cancer deaths among women, survival rates differ vastly around the globe. While in high-income countries an average of nine out of 10 patients survive, survival rates in India – six out of ten – and South Africa – four out of ten – remain at a much lower percentage.
According to the World Health Organisation, the reason for these differentiating survival rates is mainly due to high-income countries offering better access to “universal health coverage and higher numbers of public cancer centres”. Therefore, researchers have been working  on creating accessible and cheap technologies to diagnose tumours more easily in low-income countries – with one of those technologies, developed in India, first successes have become apparent. 
Why do people get breast cancer?
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
One of the most crucial questions patients and their beloved ones may ask themselves is why they actually got the disease. So far, science has not found a proper answer to this. While the causes for the disease remain unknown, there are certain risk factors which can influence the likelihood of people developing breast cancer. 
If people within the patient’s family have had the disease, the risk for other family members to develop a tumour can be higher. By now, scientists have found two genes named BRCA1 and BRCA2 that are linked to an increased risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. However, since breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, people in the same family may simply be diagnosed with it by coincidence. 
Another factor that has been found to increase the risk of developing breast cancer is the patient’s age. Most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of fifty making regular screenings crucial for early detection of the disease. 
Technology has helped to reduce mortality
Since 1980, breast cancer mortality has declined by 40 percent in high-income countries. Scientists say that the reason for this decline can mainly be found in early diagnosis and advanced technology that enables doctors to make such diagnoses. With new technology and treatment methods becoming increasingly effective, mortality rates within the EU show a further declining tendency. This raises hopes for making breast cancer more easily curable within the near future. 
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However, despite mortality tending to decline, survival rates differ recognizably even within the EU. Another study by the European Cancer Information System carried out in 2020 states that as of the five-year survival rate of breast cancer patients, those in Northern and Western Europe lay at higher numbers than those in the East. The study further suggests that this is because of the varying quality of diagnosis and treatment patients receive within the different EU-countries. Therefore, the lack of proper health care remains the main reason for non-sufficient breast cancer treatment both globally and within the EU.
AI could help detect tumours earlier than ever before
With breast cancer, early detection is especially crucial given chances of recovery remain much higher if tumours are found at an early stage. A device, developed by the Indian tech-company Niramai, could now offer new approaches to early diagnosis as it works with a combination of thermal scans and artificial intelligence that has shown to be successful in detecting tumours.
Photo by Michele Leman on Pexels
From the age of 50, women are recommended to undergo a mammography every two years. However, palpation of the breast through either the treating gynaecologists or the patient herself should be carried out regularly from the age of 25. The new screening technology could make such palpations obsolete in the future, as no more professional guidance would be required. This plays a particularly important role considering that the procedure allows much more privacy for the patients, which has been found to be especially important for women coming from rural areas and led to “wider acceptance of this technology” as found in a recent study. 
The company itself refers to their technology as a “computer-aided diagnostic engine” which pretty much sums up its whole purpose. As a first step, the medical device takes thermal images to gain information on the temperature of the patient’s skin. The AI then analyses those images to see whether any abnormalities can be detected. Since the examination of those images is very time-consuming and can only be carried out by experts, the technology could help to detect breast cancer up to five years earlier and through an overall faster procedure than now. Another benefit of the AI-technology is its relatively low cost. Compared to the common procedure of cancer detection, the new Thermalytix method amounts to only a tenth of the costs of a mammogram. 
Breast cancer patients are influenced by social stigma 
Photo by Michele Leman on Pexels
It is no coincidence that India has kept so up-to-date with preventive technology. Each year, half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer die from the disease because tumours are detected too late. As mentioned before, this is mainly due to the lack of access to adequate health care: 65 percent of India’s population live in rural areas with little to no access to check-up centres. Additionally to that, another often forgotten factor that comes into play is the social stigma attached to breast cancer. The disease and its treatment were found to significantly influence the patients on a physical and socio-psychological level.
With the help of new technology, early detection could find a broader acceptance in society and become more easily accessible for those at risk. Clearly, mammography will not be replaced by the AI-technology immediately. However, the necessity for new technologies in the field could pave the way for establishing cost-effective and easily available detection methods. Läs mer…

Rewarding “Good” Companies—How the Economy for the Common Good Wants to Change the World

The Economy for the Common Good (ECG) is an alternative to the existing economic model of capitalism, including the pursuit of profit and constant growth. The ultimate goal is a good life for all people. The idea: the state supports companies that produce in an environmentally friendly way and pay their employees fairly. Through favorable loans and tax breaks, they receive a clear advantage and can thus operate even more successfully. Piece by piece, this could lead to a sustainable and socially just economic system.

Let’s imagine that a small café, a local carpentry shop and a family bakery are suddenly more successful than the branches of the large global corporations. The reason: the state supports them with favorable loans, investment aid and tax breaks because they operate more sustainably, socially and fairly. The corporations, on the other hand, have to pay higher taxes because they exploit their employees and destroy nature. This deliberately gives small businesses a clear advantage over corporations and enables them to assert themselves on the market with their fair and sustainable products.
A utopia? From today’s perspective, yes. But in the sense of the Economy for the Common Good, this is what our economic reality could look like. 
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Economy for the Common Good Explained: What is it?
The Economy for the Common Good (ECG) is an alternative to the existing economic model of capitalism. The primary goal is a good life for all people, and not the maximum enrichment of a few company owners. It is an ethical market economy based on basic human values. The focus is on human dignity, solidarity and justice, ecological sustainability, transparency and co-determination. Values that are also shared by almost all democratic constitutions. 
One of the strengths of the Economy for the Common Good is that it links to core elements of the capitalist market economy: corporations, credit, trade, markets, property. However, it transforms these elements by consistently placing them at the service of overarching values—human dignity, solidarity, justice, sustainability, democracy. It is therefore transformation and evolution, not “disruption” or “system change.” (Christian Felber, founder of the Economy for the Common Good)
These overarching values are only a proposal. The concept envisages that they will be (further) developed jointly in a democratic process. 
Sustainability for People, Environment, and Economy
The Economy for the Common Good understands sustainability as being, not only the resource-conserving use of nature, but also respect for human dignity as well as free and successful economic activity as part of an ethical market economy. 
The three Pillars of Sustainability

 Upholding human dignity
Respectful treatment of nature
Entrepreneurial freedom and success within the framework of an ethical market economy
ECG leads to more sustainability, as it promotes those companies that operate in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. Through loans, investments and tax breaks, they gain a clear advantage over others and thus prevail with their products on the market.
Following this simple principle, it would simply no longer be worthwhile to disregard human dignity, destroy the environment or drive inequality in society for the profits of a few. Step by step, this could lead to an economic system in which careful use of our finite resources pays off—while reckless and exploitative behavior does not. 
Many people are now looking for meaningful work. Sustainability is particularly important—especially among the younger generation. This is another advantage for companies that focus on the common good: many of their employees feel significantly more satisfied  they see their work as making a contribution to the common good.
The “common good balance sheet” measures exactly how much a company contributes to the common good. 
Common Good Economy Goals: Democratize the economy
Through a new economic order and a fundamentally new way of thinking about business, the common good economy aims to achieve a good life for all. This is its ultimate goal. Everything is to be discussed anew and decided democratically:
ECG Goals: Democratize the Economy

Should a CEO really earn 300 times as much as an employee? Or wouldn’t 10 times be fairer? Of course, there should be more pay for more responsibility. But at the moment there is a lack of proportionality. Because such high salary differences endanger social cohesion.
Shouldn’t toxic sprays be banned altogether, even if a global corporation is resisting one  with all its might? After all, every single person bears the health consequences. Wouldn’t it be fairer if they were the ones to decide?
Eight billionaires own more than the poorer half of the world’s population. Is that still fair? Or do we need a wealth cap, higher inheritance taxes and a fairer distribution of property?
How high should the minimum wage be? Is 12 euros per hour (Germany) enough? Is it okay that there is none at all in Austria?
The Economy for the Common Good wants to put control over our future back into the hands of democracy. An accumulation of capital, money and consequently power should only be possible to a limited extent. Where this limit lies, all people should decide together.
The common good balance sheet: This is how it is assessed
With the common good balance sheet, a company, university, city, or municipality can measure its contribution to the common good.
Contribution to the Common Good

Are the raw materials used mined in an environmentally friendly way?
Are there human rights violations in the supply chains?
Does the customer benefit take precedence over the company’s own sales aspirations?
Are all those involved paid fairly?
Is transparency ensured in dealings with employees?
One of these companies is the sporting goods manufacturer Vaude. Vaude pays attention to the highest ecological standards in textile production. With the Common Good balance sheet, the company can measure the resulting contribution to the common good. 
The Common Good Matrix (graphic:
The Common Good Balance Sheet is based on the Common Good Matrix and rates companies in 20 categories with + or – points. Plus points are awarded, for example, for resource-conserving and environmentally friendly business practices, fair wages and social working conditions. Minus points, on the other hand, are awarded for environmentally harmful behavior or disregard for human rights. The more plus points a company has, the more it contributes to the common good. 
The Economy of the Common Good advocates that such a balance sheet would be mandatory for companies and, above all, would have legal and economic consequences. Companies with a high score would receive certain advantages, such as lower taxes, more favorable investments, or would be given preference in the awarding of public contracts. This would create concrete incentives to operate and produce in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.
Around 1,000 companies in 35 countries are already drawing up a common good balance sheet and have decided to pursue social goals beyond mere profit maximization. These include well-known companies such as Vaude, Sonnentor, Windkraft Simonsfeld, the Trumer brewery and the Freistadt brewery community.
Pros & cons of the Economy of Common Good: advantages and disadvantages for society
The basic values of the common good economy (human dignity, solidarity, justice, sustainability, and democracy) result in the following benefits: Pros & Cons of the Economy of the Common Good

Sustainability: By committing to sustainable and resource-conserving production, we save our planet. 
Transparency: The common good balance sheet makes the behavior of companies comprehensible and transparent for society. 
Solidarity and justice: Social cohesion and solidarity with one another grow as inequalities and injustices are reduced. 
Equality of opportunity: A wealth cap (for legal entities: e.g., a limited liability company, stock corporations or trade associations) reduces the differences between rich and poor. This leads to greater equality of opportunity. This is because wealth and private ownership contribute significantly to economic, social and also political inequality in a society. Today, the rule is: those who are rich get richer. Those who are poor remain poor. 
More democracy: In Austria, 90 percent want a new economic order—in Germany, the figure is 88 percent (Bertelsmann Foundation survey, 2012). People want change, but in the current model they have no voice. It’s quite different in the common good economy: here, they would vote together on every aspect of the economy. Everything would be up for debate: Is it fair, for example, for a manager to earn 300 times that of a regular employee? Wouldn’t 10 times be enough?     
Less lobbying: Lobbying and corporate influence on political decisions would simply no longer be possible, as the common good would be the ultimate goal. As a result, global corporations and extremely wealthy individuals would lose the basis of their power and influence. 
Human dignity: No more exploitation, as the economic consequences (more taxes and duties) would make it no longer worthwhile.
Disadvantages would arise mainly for those who exploit the current situation and profit from the fact that people and the environment are exploited, that political influence is possible and that there are no real consequences for it (yet).
The Criticism: The Effort and the limited Freedom
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce criticizes the bureaucratic effort that this could create. Not only would one have to draw up a common good balance sheet for every company, but one would also have to define the tax and social advantages and disadvantages that result from this. 
But if you think back, you will see that the introduction of general accounting also involved a lot of effort. So should we really ask ourselves whether it would be too burdensome? Or shouldn’t we better ask: does a company benefit the environment, peace, people? Does it contribute to the general welfare of society, or does it do more harm?
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Of course, a new balance sheet would be a costly undertaking—but one that would be worthwhile for companies and society. It would help them reflect on their own actions, classify them and, if necessary, adjust them to contribute to a better society. Which, at the end of the day, is also in their best interest. 
It is also often criticized that the common good economy would restrict the freedom of companies and individuals too much. However, it is questionable how much of a restriction there can be when entrepreneurial freedom means the exploitation of people and nature. 
Our society is built on restrictions—that’s the only way coexistence and freedom work. For example, we do not race through the inner city at 200 km/h because that would be too dangerous for everyone involved. We also do not solve conflicts with violence, but in court. Restrictions are necessary—but only we as a society should decide on them.
The Economy for the Common Good: Examples
Worldwide, there are nearly 60 practicing cities and communities, 175 active regional groups, and 200 universities committed to the common good economy. These people have chosen it because they no longer want to watch large corporations destroy the environment and erode democracy. They want to see meaning in their work again, and working together for a better society gives them just that. The reasons and the exemples for their commitment are numerous and could not be more different, but they all have one thing in common: dissatisfaction with the current situation and the will to change something. 
Good Practices:

Valencia: Since 2021, the autonomous region has been promoting companies that produce sustainably and that have drawn up a common good balance sheet. A total of 700,000 euros in funding will be awarded.
Hamburg: In the future, public companies will be required to comply with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. To monitor compliance, they are to draw up a common good balance sheet.
Common good balance sheet in banks: Vorarlberger Landesversicherung, Raiffeisenbank Lech and Dornbirner Sparkasse already prepare common good balance sheets. The pioneer in Germany was Sparda-Bank München. Former Chairman of the Board Günter Grzega: “In the course of our common good reporting, my successor abolished all bonus payments at Sparda-Bank München. As a result, two out of a total of 700 employees left the company. And that was a good thing.”
Common Good account: The “Gemeinwohl Konto” is a cooperative project between the “Genossenschaft für Gemeinwohl” and the environmental center of Raiffeisenbank Gunskirchen. The goal is to use money specifically for undertakings that serve the common good and thereby contribute to a change in the monetary and financial system. This is made possible by a rather simple step: a separate accounting cycle guarantees that money to the value of all deposits in common good accounts is allocated as financing for common good-oriented projects. This way, all account holders know that their money contributes to the common good.
Faced with the climate crisis, the gap between rich and poor, and the crisis of confidence in politics and democracy, transforming the current economic system towards a common good economy could defuse, if not solve, many global problems.
Constraints will result from this. However, these restrictions will not curtail our freedom, but will set in motion a democratic process that can make all our lives better.  Läs mer…

Black Friday: Amazon employees protest for better working conditions

On Black Friday, in over 40 countries, Amazon employees protested to draw attention to the poor working conditions in the distribution centers. With the “Make Amazon Pay” initiative, the workforce is demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Although the company is making record profits, many of its employees can barely live on their salaries. 
For many, “Black Friday” is simply a day on which to look for a bargain or two. For the Amazon workforce, it is a day of worldwide strikes and protests to draw attention to the miserable working conditions in the distribution centers. In the past, the poor working conditions in the Amazon distribution centers have repeatedly made headlines: employees are poorly paid, monitored and put under pressure.
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 Over 80 organizations have joined together to stage protests from Mexico to India in countries around the world. This is the third year that people around the world have united against the exploitative methods of the major corporation. 
The “Make Amazon Pay” initiative, for example, is trying to use the day for strikes and rallies to support the fight for fair working conditions. They accuse the company of squeezing “every last drop out of workers, communities, and the planet” and seek to end this injustice. 

Today, on #BlackFriday, we start our @organizeAWAS campaign against the surveillance of workers in all parts of @AmazonDE. We fight back against constant tracking of every move, be it in fulfillment centers, parcel delivery, data centers or office work. #MakeAmazonPay 1/4
— Amazon Workers Against Surveillance (@organizeAWAS) November 26, 2021

Despite 470 billion in sales: Amazon employees still poorly paid
In 2021, the online retailer Amazon generated sales of around 470 billion US dollars—which is roughly equivalent to the entire economic power of Austria. However, the employees of the major corporation feel relatively little of the record profits. In some cases, the low wages are barely enough to survive reasonably well. 
Amazon exploits not only its own workers, but also the public. In 2021, the online retailer did not pay a single cent in income tax in Europe, instead pocketing tax refunds.
System error: Amazon fires employees in case of illness
In the USA, Amazon employees have been paid less or even fired when they are sick, according to a report in the New York Times. The reason for this was a system error, according to the company. The sick days were interpreted as days of absence. The company is trying to find and compensate those affected. 
Amazon mobilizes against unionization in Alabama
In early 2021, Amazon workers* in Alabama began to band together to form a union and  fight grievances. The company financed a mobilization campaign instead of supplying better working conditions itself. In conferences, the management openly spoke out against the formation of a union. Flyers on toilets or a dedicated homepage were supposed to convince employees that wages were already sufficiently high.
Employees in Staten Island formed Amazons first ever Union. (Photo: Amazon Labour Union_Twitter)
First Amazon union ever, founded in Staten Island
But this is slowly changing: Not much later, a union was successfully founded for the first time at Amazon in a distribution center in Staten Island—despite immense resistance from the company’s management.  Läs mer…

Interview – Andrew Barnes: “The reality is the 4-day-week works everywhere!”

Four years ago, New Zealand’s trust company Perpetual Guardian introduces 4-day week to work less for the same pay. The attempt was so successful and the worldwide response so enormous that director Andrew Barnes and a colleague founded an international lobby organization for the 4-day week: 4 Day Week Global. In an interview with Kontrast, founder Andrew Barnes says the 4-day work week is an opportunity to change the world. 
The “4 Day Week Global” works with leading universities, such as Boston College, the University of Queensland or the University of Sydney, among others, and have already reached 5.5 billion people witThe non-profit platform has accompanied countless attempts to reduce working hours around the globe, including the largest attempt in the UK.h their campaign. 
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Kontrast: Why did you co-found the organisation 4 Day Week Global?
When we ran the 4-day week trial in our own company, Perpetual Guardian, in 2018, there was a huge global response that we didn’t expect. And not just media-wise, but literally thousands of companies got in touch and asked, “How did you do it? What did you learn from this?” And so a colleague and I decided to share our experience with others.
When we announced the final results and that we would keep the 4-day week after the pilot phase, there was another huge media response. At that point, we said to ourselves, this is bigger than us—we need to start an organization. Since then, we have been supporting companies to introduce measures like the four-day week, lobbying governments and doing research on working time reduction.
I believe that the impact on society and workers is so positive that we should work for it. You don’t get many chances to change the world.
Kontrast: Why do you think the reaction was so enormous?
I think, first of all, it was probably a day when there wasn’t much else going on and everyone was thinking, what the hell are those crazy New Zealanders doing? But basically I think two things happened. One, it hit the zeitgeist. I think 80% of working people around the world, regardless of their culture, also think that they would like to have more free time. And secondly, the pandemic came and changed a lot of things. I believe that people, both employers and employees, are now questioning the way they worked before the pandemic and are looking for different solutions. The pandemic proved that you can do things differently.
Another reason the Perpetual Guardian trial got so much attention worldwide was that we accompanied the trial with independent research. So it wasn’t just me sitting there saying, “Hey, that was good.” It was an independent academic study that said, “These are the results, and these are statistically important deviations from what we saw before. So I think ultimately the research is helping to prove the benefits of the 4-day week. The narratives from the individual companies are also helpful, but it’s the combination of these two factors that I think underscores that we’re on to something big. The idea is much more robust than you might think.
Kontrast: So it all started with the trial at Perpetual Guardian in 2018. Can you explain what has happened since then?
In November 2018, we made the reduction in working hours permanent at Perpetual Guardian. We have found that productivity has remained high. I think we are twice as productive per capita as one of our nearest competitors. We haven’t experienced the backsliding that people fear when you permanently reduce working hours. We have found that it is easier to attract and retain good staff.
Our sick days have been halved. And of course our costs are also lower because we no longer need so much space and our electricity bills are lower.
Internationally, we have seen four-day week grow globally from a few staff exchanging ideas over the internet to a global organization now running trials in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Spain, Portugal, South Africa and Israel. We have influenced legislative changes in the US, Romania, Lithuania, Belgium, Russia, Japan, and India. We know that there are now governments in Scotland, Wales, Central and South America actively considering how to introduce a four-day week. And then there is the United Arab Emirates, which has actually done it.
More and more countries are launching pilot projects for the 4-day week. Most recently, Scotland has announced that it will pilot the four-day week—following models from Iceland and New Zealand. (Photo:Ross Sneddon on Unsplash)
Larger and larger companies are also coming out of the woodwork and starting to actively think about how they can attract and retain good employees. Because flexible working at home is no longer enough. Unilever, for example, has announced that their successful trial in New Zealand will now be rolled out in Australia. There are companies like Volkswagen that have been doing it for a while. Panasonic is doing it too. There are organizations like a bank in the UK that is doing it.
The 4-day week has evolved from a fringe idea in 2018 to one that has now entered the mainstream. It is not necessarily accepted by the mainstream, but it is clearly being discussed in the mainstream.
Kontrast: Would you say that there are mainly similarities or differences between the countries?
Well, I think in the 21st century, there are more similarities than differences between countries. As the world has by and large industrialized and developed, the problems you face in a country like Malaysia, Bangladesh, or India are in many ways no different from those you see in the US or the UK. Of course, that is not true for the whole economy. But I am pretty sure that the problems faced by many of the Bangalore-based tech companies are exactly the same as the problems faced by tech companies in Silicon Valley, for example.
I think that’s why the Four Day Week campaign has now reached about five and a half billion people worldwide.
We have talked about the four-day week in over a hundred countries. It is not something that is focused on the 27 European countries, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In the course of our pilot project in South Africa, companies from four or five other African countries have also come forward and said they are interested in participating. This is not a Western world problem. It is much more than that.
Kontrast: When we talk about the process in the UK, the biggest process ever is now almost in its final stages. What do you expect next here?
We don’t have the results yet, of course, but in the midterm phase we sampled some of the companies that participated in the study, and we got the usual results, which is that the overwhelming number of companies say, “This is really fantastic, and we’re going to keep it.” They see higher productivity, higher employee engagement and lower employee stress.
I would be very surprised if the pattern of other attempts is not repeated. There are now probably thousands, if not tens of thousands, of companies around the world that have introduced a four-day week. And there is a consistent message coming from them. And if you think about it, it’s not surprising. I mean, who would have thought that healthier, happier, more rested and more engaged employees would be more productive… It’s obvious, right?
Kontrast: Looking at the examples and trials, are there differences between the public and private companies?
At the end of the day, it is sometimes more difficult for a public company to introduce a four-day week because it has to get different stakeholders on board. In a private company, it can simply be decided by the owner of the company. But it can be done. There are now some local authorities that will try a four-day week, for example South Cambridge Council in the UK. They have come under quite a bit of fire in the right-wing media, and they will be scrutinized. It’s a very brave move. I think they will prove that it works, but it takes a very committed council or local authority or government to do it.
I think that at the country level, you are starting to see that the global labor shortage is going to lead to governments increasingly asking themselves how they can make their region or state more competitive. An example of this is the Premier of the Australian state of Victoria, who has announced that if he wins the election, he will introduce the four-day week throughout the state of Victoria. This is his way of attracting talent to Victoria at the expense of other Australian states. So it’s becoming a competitive issue.
The biggest risk a country or a company can take now is that they will not introduce the 4-day week. Their biggest risk is that their biggest competitor does it first.
The first one to move gets the headlines, the recognition, the choice of employees—everyone else then has to catch up.
Kontrast: Would you say that the four-day week can also be implemented in the service sector, e.g., in the care sector, in schools, in the health sector? There are reservations that productivity cannot be increased there as easily as in industry or in the digital sector…
There are examples here too. 1,600 school districts in the United States have already introduced the four-day week. But I think the best answer to this question is a trial in the United Kingdom. There, surgeons at St Thomas’ Hospitals put together a medical team that was one and a half times the size of a normal medical team. They had two operating theaters, which they ran in tandem. In this way, they managed to perform a week’s worth of operations in one day because they were able to optimally utilize the capacity.
We could even introduce the three-day week with this model—with the same number of operations. If you think about it, it means rethinking healthcare.
We are a bit in the situation where people say, well, you can’t possibly do it. If you don’t believe that you can do it, if you believe that what we are doing today is the pinnacle of human achievement, you will never be able to improve.
But if you think there must be a better way, then we should reconsider. There are pioneers who show that the 4-day week is possible. For example, a restaurant chain in Spain or a fish and chips place in England. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy, but once you get people thinking differently, then all the possibilities open up.
Kontrast: So there are many examples that show that working time reduction in the service sector is possible, but is there also data that proves that it actually works well?
That’s why we are doing the pilot programs all over the world. I can tell you company after company that says, “We did this, and we have an improvement.” But the problem with that is that there is no standard method of analysis. So when we put the studies together—and that’s why we have a global research program—the idea is that we are able to measure in a consistent way the impact on companies and their employees. That way we can get a global picture. When we have completed all these pilot programs, we will have very meaningful data that will show how it affects people—across cultures, countries, and industries.
Kontrast: You advocate the 100-80-100 model, which means 100 per cent of the wage, 80 per cent of the time, but for 100 per cent of the productivity. Isn’t there a danger here that the compression of working time will lead to more stress, pressure, and dissatisfaction with the job?
The research results show that people are less stressed. In Unilever’s recent report on their study in New Zealand, the data suggests that people are talking about compressed working hours. But global research shows that people are actually only really productive for two and a half to three hours a day. So out of an eight-hour day, five hours are “fluff”, five hours while you are busy but not necessarily productive.
Statistically, you are interrupted every 11 minutes and need 22 minutes to become fully productive again. So if you give someone one hour of intensive work without being interrupted, that is equivalent to three normal time-outs.
If I skip one day, my other days are much more productive, and actually I don’t even have to work every hour and every minute of the four days. I actually only have to spend 45 minutes of extra productivity on each of the four days to make up for the fifth day. So I work three hours and 45 minutes and I still have four hours to hang out at the water cooler or go on the internet. So it’s not what people think. That’s because people think that when I’m at work, I’m fully productive.
Kontrast: Have you already worked with companies or authorities in Austria?
Some companies in Austria have come forward. Some universities have also come forward that are interested in participating in the research.
Kontrast: So, what advice would you give to companies?
The real problem is often that companies think too much about it. A lot of companies say, “Well, maybe there were some difficulties with the implementation, but basically it wasn’t as hard as we thought.” That’s why one of our first pieces of advice to companies is that they shouldn’t think too much about it. They often try to analyze everything and come up with a solution for everything. But it doesn’t work that way. If you think about it too much, you come up with all these reasons why it won’t work. The reality is that it does work. It’s much easier now because you have all the evidence that’s there. You just have to try it out. And then staff have to find the things that are preventing them from being productive. It varies from staff member to staff member, from department to department.
And secondly, read the material, because there is so much of it now that it is much easier to take the step than it was four years ago. And what’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work, at least the staff will love you for it. So you will get something out of it, even if the only benefit is that you figure out how to measure productivity.
Kontrast: And what would you advise the Austrian government?
Why are they different? I mean, governments have the same problem. We all face the question of how to deal with mental health problems in the workplace. One in four is affected by it. How can we reduce our carbon footprint?
A study carried out in the UK says that switching to a four-day week in the UK would result in an emissions’ reduction equivalent to taking all UK car traffic off the road.
If people only work four days a week, you have fewer cars on the road. Then there are more opportunities for free traffic, less congestion, and that in turn leads to a higher GDP. So there is a virtuous circle here that governments need to keep an eye on.
And then we all struggle with how to finance our health care system. Because people are living longer, but they are getting sicker over a longer period of time. If you are healthier and happier, don’t eat junk food, have more time to exercise and spend more time with your family, what do you think happens? The effects on health improve. You have more time to learn. This means you can help your employees get used to issues like artificial intelligence and the transformation of work. There are a lot of fantastic things that a government, if it is willing to understand this, can actually do.
And that is what I would say to the Austrian government: look at the macroeconomic benefits, think outside the box. So it’s not just about what happens at the factory gate, but what the impact is on the whole society. 
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Remote Inequality: The effects of working from home on the work-life balance of women

Remote work has established itself throughout the past two years. The change to labour suddenly taking place in the private sphere of our own homes has led to drastic changes and raised a debate about what exactly can be called ´real´ work. 
During 2020 around 40% of workers in the European Union switched to working from home. This marked a rise of 35% compared to 2019 where only 5,4% of EU-employees worked remotely—the majority of them being women. 
But even before facing the challenges of a global pandemic, working from home has been the only practicable way to combine both their paid and unpaid work. Unpaid work includes tasks like childcare and household duties which, even in 2022, are still predominantly carried out by women.
Carework such as childcare is still mostly carried out by women
In 2020 12.3% of EU-employees started to work remotely on a regular basis with 41% of EU-women working from home—and this is not a coincidence. A report by the European Foundation for the improvement of working and living conditions issued in late 2020 has found that the work-life balance of women has been affected to a much greater extent by the overall effects of the pandemic than those of men. Women, for example, were found to carry a much heavier burden of care responsibilities. Simultaneously, young women were more likely to lose their jobs compared to their male coworkers. This depicts an utterly different picture of the way employees adapted to the changes work life has undergone within the past two years. 
Carework is work 
The divide between working in the private and the public sphere has manifested itself for centuries. Even though work itself has undergone some drastic changes with ongoing digitalization and globalization, the changes remain limited. The perception of work in the private sphere, often referred to as carework, versus work taking place in the public sector has differed enormously.
Carework is rarely considered real work in our society
Carework such as childcare, cleaning and cooking duties have historically been unequally distributed in households. The majority of the work is still taken care of by women. This is clearly linked to gender stereotypes and gender based discrimination in social (and public) institutions. Even after centuries of fighting for women’s rights and emancipation, men are perceived as the main breadwinners in most families.
On the challenges of Teleworkers
With the surge of remote work during the crisis, many challenges of working from home have been highlighted. Overall, it can be stated that remote workers are less protected in their own homes. This is especially noteworthy when talking about women that live with abusive partners and/or under poor living conditions.
“In addition to being less protected in the ‘private’ space, home-based teleworkers are at risk of being sidelined at their workplace, with reduced professional visibility and career prospects and less access to information and personal and professional support.” Kalina Arabajieva and Paula Franklin, Researchers at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)
Additionally, most of them experience reduced professional visibility, which stems from them not being physically present at meetings etc. This then leads to their isolation from the in-office team.
41% of EU-women worked from home in 2020
The lack of physical presence also leads to reduced interpersonal exchange with the team. This can result in a lack of information and support—both personally and professionally—such as unionizing. That alone can lead to severe work-life conflicts disproportionately affecting women.
Protecting the health of remote workers
Telework is filled with psychosocial risks affecting the health of workers. Therefore, preventive measures must be undertaken to ensure the safety of those working from home. An overall review of the working conditions is required to ensure that the shift from office to home based or hybrid work can be adapted without workers losing the rights that the working class has fought for over the past centuries. Such changes have to be established within both the legal and the social landscape. But therefore, the binary divide between paid and unpaid work has to be questioned.
Establishing homeoffice as a protected working sphere 
Even with all the challenges workers face when carrying out telework, many of them still want to work from home or at least have the opportunity to do so. However, the divide between work carried out from home versus such carried out in the public sphere leads to remote work from home being perceived as less valuable or not real work. 
Telework is filled with psychosocial risks affecting the health of workers
To support workers in their ability to divide their private from professional/work life, it is imperative to end the societal perception of remote work and unpaid domestic labor. Only this way can a better work-life balance for those with caring responsibilities be established. Both the rights and working conditions of teleworkers need to be protected—particularly of those with caring responsibilities.  Läs mer…