Sustainable employment in a non-growth oriented economy

In recent years, debates have strongly resurfaced whether it is at all possible to approach sustainability within an economic, social and political system that places the idea of growth in the centre of attention. Many envision – including the present authors – that solutions to such complex issues can now only be handled by finding suitable transition paths to alternative paradigms and institutional
settings moving beyond the concept of economic growth. The idea of a steady-state or de-growth economy does not project the idea of a stationary state (Daly, 1977; Kallis et al, 2012). In such an economy, the combination and ratio of the four value-producing capitals (natural, social, human, and man-made) would also be continuously changing, only welfare would rely more on the qualitative gratification and less on the quantitative expansion of material and energy-intensive transformations. However, the most challenging question is how this transition from our current economic paradigm to a non-growth oriented economy can take place and what policy measures may support this transition.

This brief is based on the experience and results of a backcasting research project conducted in Hungary in 2012-2013. Backcasting is a preferred method in transition management – particularly with regard to sustainability issues – as it facilitates the deliberation of complex socio-economic issues and enables participants to think freely outside the realms of present cognitive frames
and still find adequate, future-oriented policy answers (Robinson et al, 2011). As opposed to the extrapolation of the present trends used in forecasting, backcasting starts with the establishment of a normative vision of the future and tracks its way back from this vision to currently feasible policies providing a bridge between the desired future and the present state. In the case of this particular
Hungarian backcasting exercise sustainable employment scenarios were developed and policy recommendations were determined for reaching such a desired future (Köves et al, 2013a; Köves et al, 2013b).

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