Public Service Draft

Challenge: apathy, inequality, consolidation of stigmas

Our understanding of apathy is tied to the overarching indifference that belongs to many people in society. On the one hand, we consider the apathy of those who are privileged, often not involved in the more practical and concrete issues of communities and unaware of the disadvantages of trying to live day to day, the apathy of those who feel that people do not care about them or that their voice doesn’t count for anything, the apathy of those who do not see the benefit of helping other people. This apathy must be countered from a young age and therefore drawing on this we recognized the need for a more empathetic society to spread understanding of how resources need to be shared and people within our communities need to be looked after through value in the democratic process.

During the Covid-19 pandemic countries across the world saw how hard people worked in roles such as nurses, carers, in supermarkets, delivering food to keep the world going. It illustrated how essential jobs and services were often the most overlooked, undervalued and very much underpaid. These roles in the provision of public services are there to support the more vulnerable in society- the elderly, those with disabilities, often those who need the most support. When being confronted with the challenges of such essential yet undervalued jobs, one learns to resonate with different realities and experiences. The values of these roles need to be spread to broader society and in turn these services need to be supported by the democratic process. Community cohesion, appreciation of democracy and understanding of inclusion comes from an increase of empathy that accumulates in the feeling of social responsibility of these roles.

Proposal: compulsory paid community work providing public services

We wish to counter apathy by fostering empathy in a compulsory work scheme for 16-25 year olds to have paid employment in providing public services. The areas of work providing public services in and around the local community would include but not be restricted to services such as healthcare, policing, homelessness, and maintenance. This would take place for 2 years as a sufficient time to foster community bonds from the age of 16 and work alongside education systems in country specific contexts. This would be paid at a standardised wage.

The decision of the job role appropriate to the student will be at the discretion of a newly appointed position who is situated at schools but is strongly connected to the local councils and community. This position will be ingrained deeply within pastoral services within education systems to have a deep understanding of students. An increased responsibility and pay would be given to the mentors who work alongside the students within the public service organisations increasing self worth of those working within organisations. The scope of the proposal is facilitated by the creation of a regional organisation board that could coordinate with other regional boards who on the national and then regional level can share practice/ understanding.

Impact: community cohesion, democratic value appreciation, inclusive society

The purpose will be to inculcate respect and responsibility in adolescents to foster awareness and create an inclusive community which would be achieved while obtaining useful life experience through the exposure of students to environments they would not necessarily encounter otherwise. The broader impact of this proposal will be the fostering of empathy and countering of apathy. A byproduct of this will be a greater connection between community and local education services and a strengthening of the public service workforce.

  1. Introducing students into the workforce creates an understanding of what work needs to go in to making democracies an ideal place to live. Furthermore, being involved in the provision of public services exposes young people to vulnerable sectors of society giving a feeling of self-worth and appreciation of the public services which are provided by modern democracies.
  2. Facilitating interaction by working alongside an undervalued but key workforce within existing work hierarchies transcends age, social-economic, racial, ethnic, and gendered boundaries, creating community and empathy through work relationships
  3. Exposing young people to vulnerable groups within society who are impacted most by democratic decisions, creating empathy
  4. Appreciation of non/”less” academically skilled workforce making a more inclusive society.

Recognizing major issues

Compulsory element
Apathy and disinterest are rapidly eroding democracies. Introducing radical policies from a young age would increase the younger generations’ civic responsibility and awareness. Its compulsory nature would be justified when considering the scheme is incorporated within the education system and made specifically student and context appropriate. Whatsmore the paid element will give students an understanding of money.

Limits of age:
The policy is envisioned to target secondary school students, beginning with 16 year olds. The idea behind this is to counter apathy from the root. Nonetheless, the policy would have to be flexible enough to adapt case-to-case, taking into consideration country specific education systems, wage policies etc.

What work to be included? / Which student carries out what work?
In practice, a new role would have to be established in schools in order to facilitate the connection between the education system (school, college, university) and the community and public good which needs to be provided. Moreover, they necessarily would have to take up a supervisory role to assist students throughout their community work engagements. As we acknowledge the complexities and sensitivities of the areas involved (specifically work with the elderly, mental health care services, hospital porting, community policing, public maintenance, social services support etc.), attention should be drawn to their specificities, for example, work with children would have to tackle issues of attachment.

How does it fit into the workload of school education?
In countries like Germany, which is a great example of an active community, students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week, while successfully following their education. Thus, it is not necessary that pupils will be obliged to work every day or do an excessive amount of time. The proposal is flexible in that regard and allows people to take into consideration weekends or afternoons, as the most important thing remains dedication to something that matters. Consequently, contribution to society could be dispersed in a couple of 2-3 hour shifts, as the main focus is boosting community cohesion by tackling indifference.

We feel that this issue is positively correlated with the previous one. How? The excessive workload that already is implemented in the school curriculum limits the number of hours that adolescents can work. This flexibility on the other hand allows employers (government institutions, private companies, NGOs etc) to cover a standardised wage, which is significantly smaller than the one of full-time workers. Firms or institutions participate in preparing future generations to be a beneficial part of society at a low cost, while young people obtain unmatched experience along with a financial stimulus that keeps them on track. Both parties get to share the moral high ground at a reasonable price – a bit of time and money.