In the German state of Baden-Württemberg, representatives of the citizens' forum "Crisis-proof Society" and the children's and youth participation formats on the topic presented their results on 26 May 2023. The final reports were handed over to the Enquete Commission of the Landtag on the same topic.
Four delegates of the Citizens' Forum spoke to the members of the commission about the guiding principles and recommendations developed in the Citizens' Forum between October 2022 and January 2023 for the fields of action of social cohesion, health, economy and crisis prevention. In particular, the participants selected for the Citizens' Forum demanded in their "Citizens' Report" clear and unambiguous communication on the part of politics, especially in crises, a more attractive design of health professions and more money for education.
Inexpensive day-care places for nursing staff
To promote work in the health system, conditions should also be improved outside the health system, e.g. by providing low-cost day-care places for care staff and further care services which are adapted to shift and weekend working hours.
The Citizens' Forum also recommends making home care less bureaucratic and more attractive by significantly increasing the care allowance (at least pay it like a mini-job) and having automatic inflation compensation. Care work is predominantly done by women. In this respect, this regulation would contribute to gender equality.
Regulating the health care system more strongly
In order to reduce the profit orientation in the health sector, the Citizens' Forum recommends regulating it more strongly. To this end, an appropriate share of the profits from the pharmaceutical industry, private health insurers and care institutions could flow back into the health system and the share of private institutions could be capped.
The forum participants recommend that the state government work at the federal level to merge all private and statutory health insurances into a single insurance for all citizens in the long term in order to increase cost efficiency and achieve synergy effects.
Improving crisis prevention
In the field of action of crisis preparedness, it should be ensured that existing warning systems and their importance are known to the general population. The responsibilities of different actors at different levels (local, state and federal) should be clearly defined and known. The state of Baden-Württemberg should produce appropriate multilingual information material, which citizens automatically receive when registering at the citizens' offices. Radio network-independent warning systems, such as sirens, should also be further expanded.
The state of Baden-Württemberg should create framework conditions for local authorities, public institutions (schools, etc.) and employers to prepare the population for crises and disasters through regular practical exercises.
Containing man-made crises
The vote on the recommendation "Crisis prevention through alternatives to growth-based economic activity" was controversial in the Citizens' Forum. "Many of the crises that concern us are man-made and are caused, among other things, by a disproportionate consumption of resources," the report states. So far, however, it has not been possible to create and implement sufficient intelligent alternatives to growth-based economic activity. Society must develop in such a way that everyone can act and live sustainably. This could also mean doing without things out of social solidarity.
"In order to actively influence the prevention of crises, the state of Baden-Württemberg must promote the creation of knowledge on sustainability at various levels and make investments based on this knowledge," demands the Citizens' Forum. In addition, the state must make efforts to curb lobbying that leads to high resource consumption. While most of the other recommendations received broad support, only 25 of the 42 forum participants voted in favour of this proposal. Nine participants voted against and eight abstained.
Another sustainability recommendation: New construction projects and post-disaster reconstruction must take greater account of existing and changing conditions (e.g. environment, affordability, building laws) and related risks. Preventive attention must be paid to more sustainable building, e.g. no sealing of surfaces, open spaces and sensible planning of infrastructure.
In order to counter price increases and inflation, which primarily affect households with a low income, the Citizens' Forum recommends setting up an aid fund for special hardship cases. Because large families and single-parent families are particularly threatened by poverty, they need special protection and, if they only have a low income, additional financial support.
Promoting renewable energies
Because bureaucratic processes hinder the expansion of renewable energies and thus crisis management, applications are to be simplified and processing times shortened. This should apply to both private individuals and companies.
State aid should be concentrated on those who really need it, "especially people with low salaries or people who provide unpaid care and bring up children". Training fees at technical colleges should be abolished, and the digital equipment of training centres should be urgently improved.
Combating the shortage of skilled workers
The Citizens' Forum also has its eye on the shortage of skilled workers. In order to combat this, especially in the skilled trades, the participants recommend upgrading the skilled trades, e.g. by paying salaried craftsmen and craftswomen better wages and giving those who do hard physical work a bonus on their pensions. In addition, apprenticeships and trades should be made known already at school and education coaches should be employed who have these professions and career options in mind as an alternative to studying.
Migrants with vocational qualifications gained in their home countries should be given easier access to the labour market. Asylum seekers should be able to work. In addition, the deportation of well-integrated foreigners should be stopped.
Limit excess profits
To prevent individual companies from enriching themselves unduly in times of crisis, mechanisms should be developed to limit so-called excess profits in times of crisis. The federal state of Baden-Württemberg should lobby for this at the federal level.
According to the Citizens' Forum, the understanding of the basic functioning of democracy must be strengthened. "Already from infancy, at the latest specifically in school, discussion and conflict skills must be taught as core competences. Methods must also be developed for adults and ways found to further train democratic skills," demand the forum participants. In this context, it is important to learn from differences in a multi-faceted society, to reduce existing fears and to focus on what unites rather than what divides.
At the federal level, the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg should advocate for a stronger defence against manipulative propaganda in social media as well as more source checks. In particular, the platforms themselves should be held accountable.
Anchoring a sense of community more firmly
In order to increase crisis resilience, the sense of community and the commitment of citizens should be more firmly anchored in society. Afterwards, children and young people presented the results of child participation and the youth forum "Crisis Resilient Youth Participation", which had started its work in parallel to the Citizens' Forum in January 2023.
The forum was intended to gather opinions and moods from the population and make them visible. The citizens thereby accompanied the work of the Enquete Commission "Crisis-proof Society", in which members of the state parliament as well as representatives from science and civil society also pursue the question of how the state and society in Baden-Württemberg can be made future-proof.
Demands on politics
The participants of the citizens' forum were to discuss together what steps are needed to prepare state and society for potentially developing danger situations in the future. What do citizens expect from their state? Finally, concrete demands were addressed to politicians and especially to the members of the enquete commission.
The forum participants dealt with questions from the following subject areas:
- Health care
- State crisis prevention (early recognition and combating of crises with the involvement of science and civil society)
- Protection of vulnerable population groups and strengthening of social cohesion
- Strengthening the resilience of the economy and using its potential for crisis prevention and crisis management.
Citizens themselves decided which areas are important to them and how they set their priorities.
Participation of children and youth
The participants of the forum met on a total of six Saturdays between October and January 2022. At the same time, children and young people from all over Baden-Württemberg were also concerned with how the state and society can be made future-proof. Delegates of a youth conference on the topic of "Crisis-proof Society" participated in two sessions of the Citizens' Forum and represented the opinion of young people.
The Citizens' Forum was an initiative of Landtag President Muhterem Aras and Enquete Chair Alexander Salomon (both Greens).
3,500 people randomly selected
For the forum, 3,500 randomly selected women and men were contacted by the state parliament. From the 220 responses, 60 people were selected according to characteristics such as gender, age, migration background and educational attainment.
The Enquete Commission "Crisis-proof Society" will discuss the topic "Social Polarisation and Social Cohesion" on 21 July 2023.
Read more: Citizens' Forum „Crisis-proof Society“