Welfare Commons

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Welfare commons as a fundament of work and social protection

Sunna Kovanen, Francine Mestrum, Sarah Deheusch Ribassin

The relevance of this commons to the EU-Agenda and the main problems the policy proposal is addressing

The European Commission is presently organising a consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). The mere idea of a european direct approach to social rights is per se a huge progress as it can help the Member States in fulfilling the human rights of citizens. The major challenges of the labour market and social protection systems addressed include:

  • −  increase in non standard forms of employment (part-time and temporary contracts)

  • −  the fast development of new technologies threatening to reduce the demand of

  • −  the widening gap in the levels of social protection between the economically strong and weak EU-countries.

  • −  The national differences between the legislation and standards, preventing the mobility within the EU and between EU- and third countries.

  • −  It does necessarily not result into division of the profits equally for the benefit of the weakest members of the society as long as austerity politics prevent public spending

  • −  It does not guarantee that the jobs would be secured from speculation or financial crises. Quitecontrary,thosewhoneedandsupportthesocialsystemsleast,andwhose fiscal policies have also been the most destabilizing for the welfare states, are the most eager in bringing them down. (Mestrum 2016)

  • −  Instead it results into misunderstanding care in the households and other reproductive activities as „unproductive expense“. House-, care- and voluntary workers cannot in this system receive adequate refund and recognition. (Habermann 2016)

  • −  It results into outsourcing the care activities to the precarious members of the society and strengthening of gender inequities, if care work continues to be an economical risk. (Federici 2012)

  • ●  Financed from the public spending

  • ●  Universal and self-reproducing fundamentals of a secure, active and innovative society

especially for people living in precarious conditions

  • ●  Not commercializable without destroying the motivation and value of the work for the whole society

  • ●  Strongly questioning the main neoclassical economic theories behind EU ́s economic policies: The most productive motive for work is supporting the communities and commons, not money. (Kratzwald 2014, Rifkin 2014)

    • ●  In universal public services provided by the states (free education up to university level, free public libraries, public good quality health care services, universal preventive social care, free school food, -health care and -mental health support etc.)

    • ●  The self-organized health insurance networks Artbana and Solidago in Germany and Schwitzerland (including more than thousand members since 1987) https://solidago-bund.de/node/69

    • ●  In numerous social enterprises and care-work collectives (especially in southern Europe)

    • ●  In time banks and related self-help networks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-based_currency

    • ●  In self-organized networks providing unconditional care regardless of the recipients ́citizenship or residence status. (​http://www.globalclinic.fi/fi/​, http://medibueros.m-bient.com/standorte.html)

1. Commission should foster an inclusive social protection system that takes into consideration all citizens, whatever their work status. This requires universal social protection for rights related to the individual (access to health care and prevention, sickness benefit, basic income). And rights that are accessible to all workers (regardless of their work contract or relationship) following the needs: maternity and parental leave and benefit, specific leaves, training, unemployment, invalidity, old age (or pension). If maternity and parental leave are made mandatory, access to training , thematic leaves, unemployment and pensions could benefit from a personal activity account (PAA). In this PAA system each hours of work and participation to commons activity are converted into points that individuals use as they want and how they want. The financing of this relies on overall taxation, not only social contribution form work.

  1. Guaranteeing adequate public services is a good measure, but it should be added with obligations on both individuals and organizations with high incomes to participate in the costs of public services universally

  2. Recognizing non-profit and reproductive activities and community services, i,e. commons, as valuable places of work, rehabilitation and re-education. The value of work especially for the people outside conventional employment markets is not based on money but its direct benefit for their community. Therefore also monetary not directly productive work in these activities should be enabled and made economically sustainable.

  3. Commission shoud design low-treshold funding programms for innovative pilots of service production between self-organizing grassroots actors and non commercial public service producers. Small-budget support for the social and solidarity economy sector should be a part of the investment plan.


Esping-Andersen,​ G. Et al. (2002) ​Why we need a new welfare state. Oxpford University Press.
Federici, Silvia​ (2012) ​Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. PM Press/Common Notions.

Habermann, Friederike​ (2016) ​Ecommony - UmCARE zu miteinander. Ulrike Helmer Verlag.
Kratzwald, Brigitte​ (2014) ​Das Ganze des Lebens: Selbstorganisation zwischen Lust und Notwendigkeit (Konzepte / Materialien). Ulrike Helmer Verlag.

Mestrum, Francine​ (2016) ​(Un?) socializing the European Union: a history of some ups and many downs. Social Commons. http://socialcommons.eu/2016/10/06/un-socializing-the-european-union-a-history-of-some -ups-and-many-downs/#more-238

Mestrum, Francine​ (2013) ​Human rights and social commons. Social Commons. http://socialcommons.eu/2016/02/01/human-rights-and-social-commons/#more-168 Rifkin, Jeremy (2014) ​The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The internet of things, the collaborative commons and the eclipse of capitalism. Palgrave Macmillan

European Commons Assembly/Policy Proposals