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Five factors that will shape your life in Europe in the 2020s

If the second decade of the 21st century demonstrated anything, it's that we live in an age of constant change.

Five factors that will shape your life in Europe in the 2020s

From the Trump presidency to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve almost come to expect the unexpected. However, there are some significant global trends that, it’s safe to say, will shape the next decade.

Together with online learning expert GetSmarter, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), we look at five of the factors that will influence the professional and personal lives of international workers in Europe over the next ten years. 

Gain an understanding of the world in the coming decade, in just eight weeks online with LSE and GetSmarter

1. Populism and economic nationalism. Donald Trump was only the most prominent manifestation of a populist surge in the second half of the last decade that afflicted many Western democracies. It was driven by disenchantment with globalisation and seemingly detached elites or technocrats.

The recent war of words between Germany and Hungary, over anti-LGBTIQ legislation, and the ensuing, very public demonstrations of support by many German sporting clubs, is only a glimpse of the ‘culture wars’ that seem to dominate the politics of central Europe in the next decade. 

Political turmoil, fanned by state and extra-state actors, may become more normalised, and that has implications for where you choose to live or take a job.

2. Cybersecurity. As more and more of our lives move online, powerful corporations handle our data and digital networks are exposed to criminal and extremist groups. What are the long-term consequences of the digital economy? How will privacy and cybersecurity concerns be addressed, such as those raised by the European Union, and who will control the new digital monopolies?

An example of how one of these issues may impact international workers in Europe is the recent ransomware attack on Swedish supermarkets, which not only saw shoppers unable to buy goods, but the entire business crippled for a number of days, costing millions of dollars in lost revenue and additional costs. 

As a benefit, however, IT specialists in cybersecurity will become more sought after, and many will need to be trained to meet the demands of corporations on the ground.

Enrol by October 5th in the Business, International Relations and the Political Economy online certificate course from LSE and GetSmarter to help you navigate the next decade

3. Brexit. It’s been five years since the United Kingdom voted to separate from the European Union, and despite half a decade of negotiations and diplomatic wrangling, tensions are still very much alive between the EU and its neighbour.

Aside from the very obvious changes to the way that many live and work in Europe, many smaller businesses are finding it impossible to ship goods, or provide services to the UK, due to spiralling freight costs, or lack of clarity about trade agreements. For many international workers in Europe, this has implications for businesses and employment – Britain may not maintain the market status it once did. 


Pic: The Local Creative Studio

4. US Elections. The 2024 US Presidential Election, and the midterms before that, will be a test to determine whether Trumpism was an anomaly, or remains an unpredictable, destabilising force in American politics for years to come.

On this side of the Atlantic, we’ve seen that the American isolationism of the previous administration has been replaced with a more cooperative approach and a military presence that is stabilising, if not increasing. For those who work in Europe as defence contractors, or with firms that do business with the military, there are more opportunities for growth after a period of stagnation. For serving personnel, they may find that their time in Europe is extended, with more opportunities to experience life in other nation

5. Climate change. The COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year will be a defining moment in the struggle against climate change. The United States and China, but also other major emitters, will need to make bigger global efforts after five years to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.

While you may be asked to use new power sources, or technologies with better energy efficiency, Europe is already being impacted by hotter summers and wetter winters, changing the way many work and go on holiday – something that you will have to get used to in the long term. 

Stay ahead of the curve. If you’re an international resident or your career requires an understanding of major global issues, it can be hard work keeping informed of these massive changes.

The Business, International Relations and the Political Economy online certificate course from the London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with GetSmarter, explores some of the significant global trends that will define the decade, and have very real consequences for business and society.

Flexible, online learning designed by leading LSE academics enables anyone to develop the skills needed to think critically and make informed decisions during times of change and uncertainty.

Embrace change: enrol by October 5th in LSE and GetSmarter’s eight-week Business, International Relations and the Political Economy online certificate course

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

A reader got in touch to ask whether there is a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP to protest, voice a political opinion, or raise a local issue. Here's how it works in Sweden.

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

People in Sweden do send letters to members of the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament, but it doesn’t work in quite the same way as it does in the UK or the US.

Human rights organisations, pressure groups, and concerned individuals will frequently send individual letters or mount letter-writing campaigns to try to influence MPs on issues that concern them.

Sweden is a transparent society, so it is easy to obtain the contact details of MPs in the parliament. You can find emails for all 349 MPs here, or if you prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, you can simply pop your letter in an envelope and send it, with the MPs name at the top, to this address:

Sveriges riksdag,

100 12 Stockholm. 

For the human rights group Amnesty, for instance, writing letters to politicians is one of the main strategies. 

The big difference between writing to your MP in Sweden, and writing to an MP, Congressman, or Senator in the UK or the US, of course, is that MPs in Sweden do not represent a constituency in the same way. 

The UK has 650 constituencies, each with its own MP. Sweden, on the other hand, has 29, with the smallest, Gotland, having two MPs, and the largest, Stockholm, having 43. You can see a map of Sweden’s constituencies here

When citizens vote in general elections, they vote for a political party first, and only then vote for which of the party’s candidates they would most like to represent them, in so-called “personal preference voting”. 

The election authority then distributes the seats in each constituency to each party based on what share of the vote they got in that constituency. A further 39 adjustment seats, which are not tied to a constituency, are then distributed to make sure the number of MPs each party has in parliament reflects their share of the vote at a national level. 

READ ALSO: What are The Local’s reader questions? 

For the purposes of letter-writing, the important difference is that you do not have an MP in Sweden, but several, normally representing rival political parties. 

According to David Karlsson, a professor at Gothenburg University, who has written a paper on letters sent to MPs, most Swedes will have no idea who the MPs are who represent their constituency. 

“It’s very obvious and well-known in Britain who the MP is,” he points out. “Knowledge of who the local MP is in Sweden is very very low, very few people could name the MP elected from their constituency.” 

Another big difference is that MPs in Sweden tend to focus their attention more at the national level, and not to see their primary role as representing the interests of their local constituencies. They don’t hold “surgeries” in their local constituencies in the same way that MPs do in the UK, and are less likely to get involved in helping individual citizens solve local problems.  

Partly this is because what they need to do to get reelected is to retain the support of their local political party organisation, rather than the support of voters. Partly, its because MPs have very little power to influence their local municipalities and regions. 

“There is a big difference in how much [MPs in Sweden] can do. If people want help in their private, local cases, there is very little executive power in being an MP,” Karlsson says.  

As a result, people in Sweden are more likely to write letters to local municipal councillors or regional representatives, rather than to their MPs if they want help with personal problems and local issues. 

When Amnesty writes letters to MPs, they usually decide which MP to write to based on whether they are actively engaged in the issue at hand, or whether they sit on a certain committee, rather than on which constituency they represent. 

When Amnesty is campaigning on a local issue, however, they do sometimes still write letters to MPs based on the constituency where the issue is taking place. 

For instance, when a Romanian citizen living in Gävleborg was hit with heavy medical bills from the regional health authority because she had a baby in a local hospital without the required paperwork, Amnesty sent letters to MPs representing the constituency. 

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