Strategic conversation with Sven Smit on a new social contract

Past event live

starts
ends
Get in touch
Strategic conversation with Sven Smit on a new social contract

Summary

The COVID pandemic has shown how quickly governments and the private sector are able to react when they really need to, in order to safeguard lives and shield people from the effects of huge and unexpected shocks. At the same time, it has cast a stark light on deep-seated vulnerabilities in social safety nets that have been festering for years.

The health and economic crises combined with the scale of taxpayer bailouts of the private sector has brought to centre stage questions about the roles and responsibilities of the state, the private sector and citizens. Is the notion of a ‘social contract’ more important than ever?

The social contract is how “citizens feel about what their contract with society is, in terms of their lives and livelihood, and the sense of security around that” (2:10). It is also the delicate ratio between income and access to goods and services at a reasonable price (3:47). With these words, Sven Smit, Chairman and Director of McKinsey Global Institute and Senior Partner of McKinsey & Co., set the scene for our 2021 ‘State of Europe’ series of Strategic Conversation debates that will culminate into the annual flagship roundtable in October.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered the largest exercise of the social contract, perhaps ever. Reversing a two-decade-long trend, governments have massively overspent in guarantee schemes, buffering risks faced by individuals—especially by the middle and lower classes, who were hit the worst by the pandemic (3:26). By protecting employees, the private sector has also been both conduit and initiator of measures that are strengthening the social contract.

As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, what can we expect for the upcoming years?

Don’t take the foot off the pedal too quickly
It is paramount to exit in the right way and at the right time. After a shock like this, states need to have the growth to pay back what has been invested in society (9:10), or else bankruptcies and unemployment will increase (11:30). SMEs (representing 99% of the EU industrial landscape and employing 100 million people) should keep up the learning curve and scale up best practices (15.28).

Look out for the next two years’ growth
There are two scenarios for recovery from a deep recession: after ten years, you can expect either a 20% or 40% recovery (9:40). Past experiences show that what is done in the next two years will shape such recoveries and how they will impact the social contract (12:00).

Follow the trends
Shaping recovery consistently alongside ongoing trends that have drastically accelerated over the past months, like digitalisation, e-commerce and digital healthcare, will guarantee sustained growth (13:08).

The future of the social contract is ‘made in Europe’
While the US and EU have had three quarters of decreasing GDP growth, China has gained four quarters on the rest of the world (17:33). Europe should however find its own path to recovery — this will positively impact the sense of security granted by the social contract (18:18). For example, take the future of work: half of the people who have lost their jobs could be re-skilled: this is a unique opportunity to transform economies and the nature of work (18:45).

Health is a key driver for growth
To sustain prosperity in Europe, governments need to invest in ‘healthy life expansion’ (20:50). For every dollar spent on healthcare, four more are generated: this is the largest investment that governments can make at societal level (21:56). And who wouldn’t want to get an extra 10 years of healthy, productive life? (21:27)

Energy makes the world go around, as long as its price goes down
Climate, energy and sustainability are high on the recovery agenda too, and rightfully so (23:30). To maintain a legitimate role for governments and the private sector – and with it, the social contract – it is essential that the price of energy, a basic service, doesn’t go up (23:57).

Inequality of opportunities: how to close the gap?
Offering access to high-quality, basic services (such as health, housing and education) at reasonable prices will re-balance the income/access equation, and release some societal tensions (27:20). Let’s also look at input costs: digitalisation and technology could play a great role in bringing down the costs of goods and services. For instance,  robotic production of houses in the not-so-distant future could quickly decrease housing prices (28:12).

Harnessing the power of speed
To end on a positive note, Smit asserted that if we are able to maintain the speed of change of the past months, we could expect the best outcomes for the social contract in terms of healthcare, education and other services (29:57).

For more information on State of Europe please click here

About

About

The Strategic Conversations series invites key policymakers to share their views on a range of important and strategically relevant issues through interviews with senior thinkers on the Friends of Europe team. This debate will be livestreamed. To submit a question for the event, tweet at us @FriendsofEurope using #FoEDebate.


Our events include photos, audio and video recording that we might use for promotional purposes. By registering, you give your permission to use your image. Should you have any questions, please contact us.

Schedule

Schedule

Participants log on to livestream
Strategic conversation with Sven Smit on a new social contract Expand Strategic conversation with Sven Smit on a new social contract

The COVID pandemic has shown how quickly governments and the private sector are able to react when they really need to, in order to safeguard lives and shield people from the effects of huge and unexpected shocks. At the same time, it has cast a stark light on deep-seated vulnerabilities in social safety nets that have been festering for years.

The health and economic crises combined with the scale of taxpayer bailouts of the private sector has brought to centre stage questions about the roles and responsibilities of the state, the private sector and citizens. Is the notion of a ‘social contract’ more important than ever?

The EU’s recovery package, in its scale and ambition, has the potential to rewrite traditional relationships, stimulate structural change at local, national and European level to respond to climate and digital challenges around the corner. Is a social contract the glue to keep societies working in good faith? What’s the mindset, way of working and the approach required to make a social contract work and a meaningful basis for how societies govern themselves and become more resilient?

End of debate
Speakers

Speakers

Sven Smit
Sven Smit

Chairman and Director, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), and Senior Partner of McKinsey & Co.

Show more information on Sven Smit

Sven Smit is currently spearheading McKinsey’s work on the Western European region. During his 30-year long career at McKinsey, Smit has acquired experience on the analysis of business growth, examining the way megatrends influence it, and defining the lessons of diversified growth. As co-chair of MGI he leads research on global economic trends and topics such as productivity and growth, urbanization, innovation and technology, labor markets and the Future of Work, emerging markets, and Europe’s economic outlook, focusing on the social contract and how it changed over the past 20 year – and especially this year.

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson

Show more information on Dharmendra Kanani

Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.

Partners

Insights

view all insights

Next Event

view all events
Track title

Category

00:0000:00
Stop playback
Video title

Category

Close

We use cookies to improve your online experience.
For more information, visit our privacy policy

Africa initiative logo

Dismiss