Programme for the Welfare Conference 2012

21st - 22nd of May 2012

Monday, May 21

 

10.00 – 10.10, Sal A: Opening session

Performance: Sara Ramin Osmundsen

10.10 – 12.30, Sal A: The cost of inequality – and politicians’ willingness to pay

There is a global ongoing struggle over how resources and wealth should be distributed in society. The distribution of wealth is closely related to democratic governance, redistribution through taxation and the existence of universal public welfare services and social support from which everyone can benefit. In the last resort it is all about the distribution of economic and political power.

Speakers:

  • Sue Christoforou, Equality Trust, UK
  • Rolf Aaberge, Statistics Norway
  • Josefin Brink, MP of the Swedish Left Party

 

Politicians, debate:

Knut Storberget (The Labour Party), Jan Tore Sanner (The Conservative Party), Inga Marte Thorkildsen (The Socialist Left Party), Per Olaf Lundteigen (The Centre Party), Torstein Dahle (The Red Party), Kjetil Solvik Olsen (The Progress Party)

Moderator: Nina Hansen, journalist and author

 

Lunch

 

13.30 – 15.30: Parallel seminars A

A1, Auditoriet: Inequality in Norway

Economic equalisation does not come easy, it is a result of social struggle. In Norway, as in many countries, this struggle led to the creation of a universal and comprehensive welfare system, redistributive taxation and a system of centralised wage bargaining which all have contributed to the equalisation of income. However this redistributive system is under attack. The hallmark of this attack is the increasing wealth among the rich and the increasing levels of poverty. Children and youth are the most exposed, and the entire social fabric of society is challenged. How has the development in Norway been? What is the situation today? And what is the next step to promote just distribution?

Speakers:

  • Rolf Aaberge, Statistics Norway
  • Lars Gunnesdal, Manifest Analysis
  • Sissel Seim, Head of Social Research, Oslo and Akershus University College
  • Moderator: Linn Herning, adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

A2, sal A: Precarious work in Norway?

Job security, regulated working hours and a wage to live from have always been at the core of our trade union struggle. Work contents and influence in the work process have also been central in the fight to humanise and further develop work life. Currently much of this is under immense pressure from strong counter-forces in society. Employers want to reverse the development, demanding increasingly more flexibility. Some of the results are more agency workers, weakening of working hours regulation, more competition to push wages down, workers who are forced to register as self-employed, the degradation of work and ever more examples of social dumping and direct violation of labour laws.

Speakers:

  • Roy Pedersen, President, LO in Oslo
  • Lotte Elstad, author
  • Sten Gellerstedt, Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions
  • Moderator: Asbjørn Wahl, Director, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

A3, Forum: Social class in education: Can schools neutralise the differences?

Research shows that parents’ background has a large impact on children’s educational choices. In addition this impact increases throughout the education. Children from a family of academics are getting the best grades. The educational system is often praised as an arena for social equalisation. Now that we see the strong correlations between family background and education, it is time to ask whether the school is capable of evening out social differences at all. How much responsibility for evening out social differences should we apply to the teacher? This is the main theme for this seminar.

Speakers:

  • Anders Bakken, Senior Researcher, NOVA (Norwegian Social Research)
  • Oddrun Samdal, Professor, University of Bergen
  • Solveig M. L. Gulling, Teacher at Holmlia skole
  • Moderator: Ida Sandholtbråten, President, Education Students in the Union of Education Norway

 

A4, sal D: Growth, wealth and happiness – Are they connected?

For poor countries economic growth is an important precondition to improve the quality fo life for its inhabitants – provided, of course, the existence of power relations which make sure that the increased wealth are distributed to the benefit of most people. In rich societies, on the contrary, we experience that increased wealth does not necessary lead to better quality of life. Rather, new problems occur, like increased stress, more mental illnesses, new types of health problems, increased use of drugs, etc. At the same time, our overexploitation of resources leads to enormous environmental problems and threats of climate catastrophes. Can we imagine wealth without growth? Can our economic system tackle it? What is possible, what is necessary, what is realistic – and how are these problems interlinked?

Speakers:

  • Ove Jakobsen, Professor of Economics, University of Nordland
  • Paul Rækstad, Master in philosophy
  • Roar Eilertsen, Director, De Facto
  • Moderator: Helene Bank, Special Adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

16.00 – 18.00: Parallel seminars B

B1, Forum: Production of food

In the 70s the Norwegian Parliament decided to drastically increase the farmers’ income. After a short period of income growth this development faded. Again the income gap between farmers and other groups widened. Despite highly increased efficiency and a rapid productivity growth the average income in agriculture has not increased in real terms since the beginning of the 80s. Today the average income per work year is about 13500 Euro. How do we treat our food producers? And why should we not just open the borders completely for food import? How is the farmers’ development in real income since the 70s related to other political developments in the same period?

Speakers:

  • Espen Løkeland-Stai, journalist and author
  • Vegard Vigdenes, farmer
  • Heidi Lundeberg, Campaign for a new agricultural policy
  • Moderator: Merete Furuberg, President, Norwegian Farmers’ and Smallholders’ Union

 

B2, sal D: The struggle against poverty

In a recent report on poverty to the Ministry of Labour, the Norwegian Welfare Services recommended to increase the level of social support in order to reduce the large group of children and young people who are now living in poverty. In Denmark the new government has promised to increase the lowest social benefits, which previously had been introduced to “make work pay” as they call it when they want to force people to work by making them poor. Why is this co controversial in Norway? Research and experience prove that poverty makes it more difficult to find a job and to become integrated in society. Do the politicians distrust those who are excluded frm society so much, that they think that both they and their children must live in poverty?

Speakers:

  • Sissel Seim, Head of Social Research, Oslo and Akershus University College
  • Johanna Engen, The Poorhouse
  • Jørund Gustavsen, representative from the union NTL
  • Moderator: Linn Herning, adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

B3, Auditoriet: Private or public consumption – What is the problem?

The private sector produces while the public sector consumes. This is often how today’s division of labour between private and public sector is presented. At the same time, this logic implies that private funeral agencies contribute to a nation’s income (GDP) while a birth at a public hospital is categorized as consumption. At this seminar we will discuss what value added is, and how this should be distributed in society. We will also take a look at the development in private and public sector, and how public sector is used to redistribute wealth.

Speakers:

  • Hilde Bojer, Economist and member of The Committee of Redistribution
  • Jan Mønnesland, Economist
  • Steinar Krogstad, National Secretary, The Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions
  • Moderator: Kim-André Åsheim, adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

B4, sal A: Crisis in Europe: From welfare to social disaster

There are now over 23 million unemployed people in the EU area. One in five young people under 24 years of age are without a job. In countries like Spain, Greece and Latvia, half of the youth cannot find a job. Children and youth are the most exposed to this increase in poverty. At the same time income in the top 1 per cent increases. Iceland is still struggling hard, but has managed to avoid the rise of poverty we have seen in the rest of Europe. Also, the employment levels in Iceland are relatively high. Is the difference between Iceland and the EU simply that Iceland allowed the banks to fall and refused to nationalise the debt? Also, what are the challenges in tomorrow’s Europe?

                  Speakers:

  • Fátima Aguado Queipo, Youth secretary, CCOO, Spain
  • Kenneth Haar, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, Brussels
  • Maria Pentaraki, MSW, Ph.D.,Senior Lecturer, SWCJ, Liverpool Hope University, UK
  • Moderator: Emilie Ekeberg, Journalist, Klassekampen

 

19.00 – 21.00: Evening seminar at The House of Literature: Youth and unemployment in Europe

This is a seminar in cooperation with labour movement youth at The House of Literature.

Speakers:

  • Fátima Aguado Queipo, Youth secretary, CCOO,
  • Maria Pentaraki, MSW, Ph.D.,Senior Lecturer, SWCJ, Liverpool Hope University, UK
  • Sue Christoforou, Equality Trust, UK
  • Moderator: Benedikte Pryneid Hansen, President, Attac Norway

 

Tuesday May 22

 

09.00 – 10.45, sal A: From exclusion to inclusion

What kind of society do we really want, and what view on humanity should this be founded upon? Do people have to be forced to work by the threat of poverty or should we preserve and develop redistribution and the welfare state? What policies could come in the aftermath of the financial crisis?

Speakers:

  • Daniel Ankarloo, teacher at the College University of Malmö, Sweden
  • Karin Andersen, MP, Socialist Left Party, Norway
  • Asbjørn Wahl, Director, the Campaign for the Welfare State
  • Moderator: Helene Bank, Special Adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

11.00 – 13.00: Parallel seminars C

C1, sal A: Taxation and distribution

Taxation contributes to the redistribution of resources, both through public services and through equalization of income. The so-called “tax promise”, which froze the level of taxation on the 2004 level, has contributed to an increasing gap between private consumption and public consumption, undermining the welfare state. The financial crisis and the deregulation of the financial sector have both led to dramatic increases in income for the top 1 per cent population, also in Norway. We will take a look at which groups pay taxes and what constitutes the largest share of the state’s income. What should tomorrow’s changes in taxes be? Should the “tax promise” survive the next election? We will also take a look at how the politicians in Trondheim managed to win the election despite their plan to increase municipal taxes.

Speakers:                 

  • Ådne Cappelen, Researcher, Statistics Norway
  • Hallvard Bakke, Fagforbundet
  • Svein Olav Aarlott, representative from The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) in Trondheim
  • Moderator: Helene Bank, Special Adviser, the Campaign for the Welfare State

 

 

C2, Auditoriet: Housing: Investment objects or a human right?

Was not housing supposed to be a right, as opposed to an object for speculation? Has the idea of “owning instead of renting” contributed to the skyrocketing housing prices? In that case, how should we solve today’s problems in the housing market? After a massive liberalisation of the housing market the last 30 years or so, we now find ourselves in a situation where the class differences in the housing market are enormous. Youth without wealthy parents do not have much chance of getting into the housing market. Sole providers can only dream about finding a home within Oslo’s city limits. In this seminar we will take a look at how the Norwegian housing policy has developed since the 70s. What political actions can be undertaken to secure the right to housing for everyone?

Speakers:

  • Jardar Sørvoll, NOVA (Norwegian Social Research)
  • Tore Johannesen, NBBL (The Co-operative Housing Federation of Norway)
  • Berit Mathisen, the Welfare Alliance
  • Moderator: Roar Eilertsen, Director, De Facto

 

C3, sal D: Pension: Social insurance or individual savings?

Polls have shown that less than half of the population know what they will receive in pension when they grow old. With this backdrop it is not a mystery why the pension debate often turns into a debate between experts. At this seminar we will cast light on some of the most important pension policy alternatives. What is really the difference between individual pension funds and social pension funds? What happens with workers’ rights when they are being solicited, and why is there such a pressure from the employers in favour of individual pension savings? What distributional struggles do we face in the pension debate?

Speakers:

  • Fanny Voldnes, Head of Social Economic Department, Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees
  • Steinar Fuglevaag, Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees
  • Dag Westrin, National Secretary, Norwegian Civil Service Union
  • Moderator: Ebba Boye, Manifest Analyse

 

C4, Forum: Private welfare – winners and losers

We will take a look at some of the effects of the ongoing commercialisation of welfare services. Are we witnessing a division of the services in two parts – for instance when an increasing number of people are buying themselves ahead in the waiting lists for operations, or with private insurance have access to instant treatment in private hospitals? What are the effects of the growing number of private nursery schools?

                  Speakers:

  • Dr. Inge Axelsson, Professor, Östersund Hospital, Sweden
  • Eli Gunhild By, President The Norwegian Nurses Organisation
  • Bjørgulf Claussen
  • Moderator: Asbjørn Wahl, Director, The Campaign for the Welfare State

 

Lunch

 

14.00 – 15.30, sal A: Plenary: How to conquer the future

The European social model is at risk. Social and economic inequality has increased dramaticly in great parts of the world over the last 30 years, while neo-liberalism has prevailed. Also in our country we are experiencing increased pressure from aggressive employers. We have witnessed increased social dumping, more commercialisation of public services and increased inequality. Neither will we go untouched through the ongoing economic crisis. What are the alternatives to further dismantling of the welfare state and increased inequality? What can we do to reduce inequalities and strengthen democracy? In short: How do we conquer our own future?

 Speakers:

  • Dean Hubbard, Senior Adviser, Transport Workers’ Union of the US and Occupy Wall Street
  • Jan Davidsen, President, Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees
  • Rigmor Hogstad, President, Social Workers’ Union of Norway
  • Monica Okpe, Shop steward at DHL Oslo
  • Kjersti Barsok, Vice President, The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions in Oslo (LO i Oslo)

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