DAY 63, BUS 2: Aarhus

26 June 2018

In Aarhus the bus was parked on Raadhuspladsen, in front of City Hall,

During the stay I heard three interesting and revealing stories from minimum income recipients. The first had work experience, high levels of education and now in order to receive her social assistance payment, worked 35 hours a week as a librarian assistant, as part of ‘activation’ policy. As well as being in a position of having to work full time for social assistance money she had to cope with ‘guilty’ feeling that she is taken a position that previously was a proper paid job.

The second person I spoke to told of the pressure to find a job. However, she said how can you find a job when even shop assistants in the big supermarkets can be ‘social assistance recipients’ on ‘activation programmes’. Could it be true that social assistance payments provides free workers for large supermarkets in Denmark?

The third person was full of energy and enthusiasm. He spent his time on social assistance dreaming up and organising small festivals. One such festival involved using old bicycles to create ‘crazy bikes’  that were then used in jousting competitions.  Who knows where such creativity will bring his life and what it might bring to the society in the future. However, I fear this ‘self-activation’ might not be considered real activation at some stage in the future.

It is clear that ‘activation policy’ like almost any other policy can be used in positive or negative ways.

In Aarhus, it was quite difficult to engage the public. Many we did engage had negative attitudes to the EU and their ‘dream’ was more of a ‘Scandinavian Union’. Often their main complaint about the EU was that migrants and asylum seekers were allowed enter the EU. When pointed out that the treatment and reception of refugees and asylum seekers is guided by a UN instrument (UN Refugee Convention – sometimes known as the Geneva Convention) and if they wanted Denmark to withdraw from this Convention they clearly said no. The same contradiction was seen when we spoke with them about the EU been more social, they complained about the EU reducing social standards but didn’t want the EU to have any role in social policy that would enable the EU to promote more strongly a social Europe.