The Normality of De-standardised Life Paths
The German Liberal Party (FDP) promoting de-standardised career and life paths as a consequence of digitalisation
by Berna Özdek
The German Liberal Party (FDP) proposed a reform of the labour market in order to face the challenges of digitalisation and structural social changes as reported by the article "Zigzag-Life Paths going normal" (original title: Arbeitsmarktkonzept der FDP. Zickzack Lebensläufe werden Normalität) by the nationwide distributed German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine" (FAZ). By doing so, the liberals highlight that de-standardised career and life paths should be acknowledged as normal – and are intertwined with structural changes caused by the digitalisation.
It is a widely shared assumption that life paths increasingly changed under new opportunities and risks of modern society. Life paths are less linear laid down roads that open a clear pace for transitioning from education, to work and family planning, etc. Life courses are rather characterised by individualisation and de-standardisation caused by ramifications, fragmentations and flexibilisation on a global scale: instead of following given paths, everyone has to negotiate life decisions repeatedly, such as proceeding with education, changing their jobs, moving to different parts of the country for the career, postponing family planning, etc. It is against this background that the FDPs reform proposal is to be read.
The liberals of the German parliament are trying to counter the overall scepticism towards digitalisation in society and the widespread fear of its effects on the labour market. The Party emphasises the potentials of a digitalised labour market for a more individualised and open career path – and the risks for those who fail to adapt in the new digitalized world. The main reason for fractured and risky life courses, as the FDP stated, is failing to adapt to the new changes. Thus, the digital age produces "digitalization-losers", as Dietrich Creutzburg from the FAZ states in the article. The overall assumption is that digitalisation opens up new opportunities for individual choices and de-standardised career paths. Promoting de-standardisation means acknowledging careers that do not follow certain and a clear pattern, but are characterised by switched statuses between employee, entrepreneur and employer, as described further.
The Party's concept is based upon the idea that digitalisation promotes flexibility and the prosperity due to division of work. Reforms would help to promote the right more work flexibility (for instance, home office, flexible working plans and more encouragement for start-ups and entrepreneurships). However, not only the workplace flexibility should allow the adaption to the new digitalised challenges and opportunities, but also the skills acquired by the workers should be adapted. Here, reforms on Lifelong Learning Policies are key for the proposed reform by the FDP. The Liberal Party claims for more financial state support in further education and training as well as establishing a credit-point system for this and promoting "hybrid-qualifications" (FDP 2018, p.151). Facing the challenge of a digitalised century, the Liberals wish practices in coding and programming in schools and more digitally qualified teachers (ibid., p.150).
Overall, the idea of turning digitalisation into an opportunity for more flexibility and self-determined working environment follows the assumption that digitalisation is a way to level out de-standardisation: Instabilities and fragmentations are reframed as more individualised and flexible life courses caused by structural changes in the age of digitalisation. The article once again highlights the essential contribution of the Project YOUNG ADULLLT in understanding the relationship and complementarity of LLL policies in terms of orientations and objectives to their specific individual living conditions and needs of their target groups by giving attention to the young adults' perception.
Creutzburg, Dietrich (2018): Arbeitsmarktkonzept der FDP. Zickzack Lebensläufe werden Normalität. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from May 03, 2018. Online available: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/beruf-chance/beruf/fdp-arbeitsmarktkonzept-sozialstaat-muss-sich-zickzack-lebenslaeufen-anpassen-15570580.html [07/05/18]
FDP (2018): Anträge zum 69. Ord. Bundesparteitag der FDP, Berlin. Online available: https://www.fdp.de/sites/default/files/uploads/2018/04/19/antragsbuch-69-ord-bundesparteitag-der-freien-demokratischen-partei-2018-18042018-143135-f.pdf [07/05/18]