Progressive Futures

The future of progressive politics

7 October 2016

Pursuing inclusive societies, equal opportunities and high trust can harness a great productive potential

Jonas Gahr Store

Increasing inequality now sets the political tone in industrialised nations. Many face uncertainty about finding work, but equally, more and more face uncertainty in work. We see a weakening of work rights and increased use of part-time workers and subcontractors. The proportion of ‘working poor’ and those who have ‘mini jobs’ is increasing. Globalisation provides benefits for many, but many feel as though the train has left the station and they are not on it. As Social Democrats, work must be the common denominator for our policies.

As progressives, we must have the clearest political narrative for tomorrow – where we are heading and how we are going to get there. In these times of flux and insecurity, our message is one of hope and optimism for the future.

New technology points to two dramatically different paths for the future. One points towards larger unemployment, lower wages for many, and higher capital accumulation among the few. Wages and salaries are the strongest driver for income distribution and tax-income for welfare. Reduction of these is a recipe for increasing inequality. The other path is towards new growth and opportunities, where high trust and close cooperation in the workplace is a competitive advantage.

Progressive governance can make the difference. Pursuing our political values of inclusive societies, equal opportunities and high trust can harness a great productive potential. Dynamic cooperation among labour, industry and government is a source of productivity in the knowledge economy. By pursuing prosperity through engaging both the public and the private sector in tandem, we have a much larger toolbox than conservatives.

Progressive politics must be guided by a focus on both creating and sharing – they are equally important and reinforce each other. We must have clear policies for value creation, with new industrial policies for the digital age. Our strongest emphasis must be on education, skills and competence. New technology requires lifelong learning: we must rethink educational institutions and learning at work. This requires a triangular cooperation between labour, industry and government.

Women’s participation in the workforce is key for high productivity. Providing affordable public childcare for all, and extending parental leave to help families combine caring for the newborn with work, are key measures for gender equality and increased productivity.

Increasing inequality manifests itself through physical separation of people in different housing areas, schools, and hospitals. To build inclusive societies, we must develop the common arenas. Quality education and health systems for all are key measures for inclusion.

In many countries, progressive parties face lower support in elections and fewer members. If we do not define policies that answers the problems and create opportunities for the majority of people, we will lose elections. Our policies must be based on values – and facts. We must create real tangible answers to the challenges regular people face. We must scrap policies that do not work – progressive policies should not be based on fixed doctrines, but a constant process of adapting means and measures to changing circumstances.

In a time of increasing inequality, progressive politics offer a different direction based on our political values are inclusion and solidarity. The ball is in our courtyard, it is time to get on the offensive.


Photo credit: altafulla / Shutterstock.com