New Trialogue Links Research, Citizens and Politicians in Crucial Issues
Live longer, work more flexible – but watch out for the poverty trap
The European Commission wants to have more participation of citizens in the field of research and development. In January, Brussels will launch »Horizon 2020«. With a budget of 80 billion € it shall make Europe scientifically and technologically more competitive with the United States and Asian nations. This requires that research needs to be much more supported by the Europe’s citizenry. One way of accomplishing this might be Science Debates, invented by the German Association of Science Writers TELI. www.wissenschaftsdebatte.de is an online platform which addresses topics crucial for the future such as demography, energy, health and society in science. It collects opinions of scientists, politicians and representatives of the civil society on significant issues. After a critical mass has been reached, there is a live debate on the topic.
Recently this took place at the International Munich PressClub on the demographic development, retirement age, pension funds and, as a whole, the labor market. Title: “Live longer, work more flexible – but watch out for the poverty trap”. A scientist from the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (Max Planck) presented research and evidence that citizens could work longer beyond mandatory retirement which would ease the demographic pinch. Young people have to pay for the pensions of an increasing senior population. An independent expert on retirement and representative of an NGO said that the problem is not so much of demographic nature but more one of distribution. The pension funds are badly administrated and favor civil servants. Thereafter, the moderator involved the audience and collected questions for the politicians.
Representatives of six parties were present, most of them candidates for parliament (Bundestag) at the upcoming federal elections in September 2013. They picked up on the experts’ statements as well as the citizens’ queries. As a result many agreed that Germany needs a basic pension which everyone has to contribute to and which everyone is entitled to, which shall promote more equality and justice as to avoid old age poverty. Many of the political representatives also agreed on the need to better support mothers and families, to improve working conditions as to prevent mental health problems and burnout, both of which have become very common in Germany. Last but not least, more flexibility in the retirement regulations could keep the German labor market on high standards, set off the increasing portion of old agers in the population and maintain the pension funds well filled.
A summary and documentation of the live debate will be sent to experts in this field and major media outlets to further stimulate the debate, accumulate more ideas and reach more consensus. And, of course, the debate is continuing on the Science Debate Platform, featuring a wide scope of opinions such as the one of the 74 year old lady who has to keep working to make a living, who engages in enhancing the mobility of elderly people and says: It all starts with education and pupils have to learn to debate in order to form opinions about complex issues, communicate them properly and to become tolerant of other people’s views. Which means that debates, in classrooms or about science, always promote our democratic skills to solve societal issues. Finally science is becoming a vital part of this. The EU, as a role model for the European nations, is already implementing this new understanding.
Author: Wolfgang C. Goede, German Association of Science Writers TELI, Vice Chairman, T: +49 89 351 5570, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.wissenschaftsdebatte.de
Further contact: Hanns-J. Neubert, former TELI chairman, inventor & designer of the German Science Debate, T: +49 40 41 80 43, email@example.com, www.wissenschaftsdebatte.de