Cross-border commuters, volunteering, health and culture: these are just some of the issues that have taken a back seat in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. Photos: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne/Shutterstock

Cross-border commuters, volunteering, health and culture: these are just some of the issues that have taken a back seat in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. Photos: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne/Shutterstock

In the final week before the election, Delano’s sister publication Paperjam is zooming in on key election issues. For this fifth and final instalment, we’re focusing on nine issues that seemed to get away.

After , , , and --which have all received ample attention in the run-up to election day on 8 October--this time we’re looking at some issues that failed to steal the spotlight.

1. Pensions

As the population grows, so does the cost of paying out pensions. According to  (in French) by the National Pensions Insurance Fund (CNAP), an increase in number of pensions of 26.47% was recorded between 2015 and 2022. The account deficit reached €2.5bn at the end of last year, amounting to a 9.39% reduction in the reserve (to €24.5bn).

The Compensation Fund, whose purpose is to ensure the financial stability of the pensions system, ended 2022 with a deficit of €3.15bn. At the time, its reserve amounted to 4.29 times the annual expenditure on CNAP benefits. The corresponding figure in 2021 was greater than 5.0, and those for 2019 or 2020 were also higher. Although the reserves are bigger than those of our neighbours, actions are needed to stop the meltdown. Indeed, in April 2022, the Inspectorate General of Social Security (IGSS) estimated that pension reserves would run out in 2045.

What can be done?

The LSAP wants to consider “alternative” financing models, the potential taxation of robotic work and simplifications to the procedure for buyback rights. The DP, meanwhile, suggests “analysing income and expenditure on an ongoing basis and making adjustments if necessary.” Déi Gréng wants to maintain the principle of 40 years of contributions while taking into account years of lifelong learning; to finance such a system, it wants contributions from capital income. The ADR seeks to reform the pension system by 2028, stating: “Once all the options have been exhausted, we would not rule out a gradual increase in contributions from 8% to 9%, divided equally between employees, employers and the state.” The ADR additionally plans to incentivise people to “work longer, voluntarily.”

2. Poverty

Poverty is a major issue. Technically, the proportion of households having “difficulty making ends meet” fell in 2021 to 24.8%, according to  (in French) from the Chamber of Employees. In 2012 the corresponding number was 25%, i.e., nearly the same, while in 2005 it was 20%. Still, the risk of poverty is rising: in 2021, the percentage of people with an income below 60% of the median adjusted income--a threshold set at €25,489 a year--reached 18.1%. This rate has, almost without interruption, risen yearly since 2012 (it fell in 2015 and stayed the same in 2020).

To tackle this, dei Lénk wants to replace the social inclusion income (“Revis”) programme with a minimum income at the poverty line, extended and indexed every two years against wage trends. The DP’s proposals include “strengthening” the Revis beneficiaries, adapting the cost-of-living allowance and drawing up an action plan against poverty. The LSAP wants to increase the minimum wage by €100 (net) in July 2024. The CSV is focusing on poverty among the elderly with its idea of “structural improvement of the minimum pension.” Déi Gréng is committed to creating a central national poverty prevention service. The Pirates are campaigning for the minimum wage to be made tax-free. For Fokus, the aim is to reduce poverty through economic development. And the KPL wants to increase the minimum wage, minimum pension, Revis and income for the severely disabled by 20%.

3. Immigration and integration

In 2022, 31,433 people arrived to Luxembourg and 17,227 left, according to Statec figures. The number of incomers was heavily boosted by Russia’s war in Ukraine, where 4,268 immigrants came from, more than any other. Next were Portugal (3,633) and France (3,107).

To better integrate them, the LSAP wants to simplify access to the Luxembourg nationality and to offer free language courses. The CSV talks about a “migration strategy” with a fast-track procedure of 12 months maximum for asylum applications, stipulating: “If the application is rejected, refugees will be sent back to their country of origin as quickly as possible.”

Déi Gréng devotes a chapter to integration, with ideas such as no longer limiting the “Cash for Food” project to the purchase of food, but allowing refugees to receive cash benefits and manage their own budgets. The Pirate Party advocates an asylum policy that “respects human rights,” specifying that if no decision is taken one year after an application for international protection has been lodged, it should be automatically accepted.

Déi Lénk is in favour of a “job guarantee,” i.e., a right to a job--for everyone--from the second year of residence. For the ADR, meanwhile, “Borders should be open, but only for honest people.” Volt wants to give foreigners the right to vote. And Fokus is working on the idea of “welcome centres” placed around the world for people who want to settle professionally in Luxembourg, where they can get in touch with companies looking for highly qualified workers.

4. Cross-border commuters and the Greater Region

Of Luxembourg’s 479,000 employees, nearly half live beyond the border. This breaks down to 121,000 in France; 51,000 in Belgium; and 52,000 in Germany. These workers don’t vote in Luxembourg despite being omnipresent in the economic landscape.

The measures proposed by the candidates concerning them can be summed up in three ideas: regional planning, mobility and teleworking. The DP wants to create “attractive parking facilities” for cross-border commuters and to encourage the creation of co-working spaces on the borders. The party states: “We will continue to work on bilateral agreements to establish a teleworking model adapted to cross-border commuters.”

The LSAP aims for two days of teleworking per week for both residents and cross-border commuters. The CSV talks of “a large region of concrete projects.” Déi Gréng wants to strengthen the political participation of cross-border commuters. Déi Lénk suggests a cross-border housing observatory in the Grand Region. And the Pirate Party proposes a tax retrocession based on the plan--already 50 years old--used by Switzerland and France regarding their border.

5. Healthcare

Complete reimbursement on drug costs for cancer patients, better support for people gradually returning to work, extension of leave for family reasons, guaranteed healthcare access for asylum seekers... social associations have (in French) concerning healthcare.

And yet, this topic hasn’t garnered much attention during the campaign. So what are the candidates proposing?

The KPL’s programme includes the creation of a regional hospital in Grevenmacher and a polyclinic in Redingen; systemically speaking, the party wants to incorporate all private healthcare training and services into the public health system. For the DP, in contrast, the “decentralisation of healthcare” is a pillar. Local medicine is also on the agendas of the LSAP and CSV. The LSAP talks about upgrading jobs in this field. The CSV intends to develop ambulatory medicine.

Déi Gréng wants to prioritise prevention, further mentioning mental health, the digitalisation of the sector and ways to address personnel shortages, i.e. with measures from training to the creation of a special status for clinicians who teach and conduct research. Déi Lénk wants to transform hospitals into de facto public establishments and to introduce universal health cover; they also plan to upgrade the status of midwives and fight harder against gynaecological and obstetric violence.

The Pirate Party, for its part, is committed to a “shared care file that really works in the interests of the patient” and to offering “more services” outside hospital, for example in private practices. Fokus wants to expand and renovate the network of medical centres.

For its part, the ADR would like to see efforts made “to help people who have suffered the professional disadvantages of not being vaccinated” against covid-19. And it promises a “complete neutral analysis of the measures that have restricted freedoms during this crisis.”

6. Human rights

The Duty of Care Initiative (“Initiative pour un devoir de vigilance”) points the finger at companies domiciled in the grand duchy whose activities abroad “threaten human rights and the environment.” Comprising 17 civil society organisations, the initiative wants to create an independent monitoring body capable of sanctioning companies that fail to respect human rights, labour standards and international environmental agreements and provisions throughout the corporate value chain.

In its programme, the LSAP says that it is committed to creating a framework for corporate social responsibility at the European level, adding that it will continue to apply the National Pact based on the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights. Déi Lénk proposes to ensure that “all provisions of international treaties on economic, social and cultural rights that are not precise and complete enough to be directly applicable become enforceable rights.”

On the subject of corporate duty of care, several candidates responded to a questionnaire submitted to them by the Initiative. Representatives of the DP and CSV said they were “against reversing the burden of proof in favour of the victims” of human rights violations. All of the list-topping candidates (“Spetzekandidaten”) except DP representative  are in favour of making the entire financial sector accountable, according to the Initiative.

7. Voluntary work

A survey done in late 2021 for the family and integration ministry indicated that 59% of Luxembourg residents are active volunteers, while a further 69% are not but are interested in volunteering in the future. Of the active volunteers, whether formally or informally, 55% are involved at least once a week. It is therefore an everyday issue for many voters.

Volt believes that “unpaid voluntary work… is no less valuable to our society than paid work” and that “a basic income could be a way of revaluing people’s contribution.” Déi Gréng, for its part, proposes a “voluntary leave” option, i.e., optional temporary unpaid leave of one hour a week during working hours, which would enable workers to get involved in “social causes of general interest.”

The CSV says it wants to give “greater support” to voluntary sport through tax benefits and, more generally, wants "greater recognition” for voluntary work. It adds: “Without volunteers, the world of sport cannot function.” The Pirate Party wants to introduce a “sports card” that would benefit volunteers in sports clubs and offer them “discounts and advantages.”

8. Luxembourg in the European institutions

Although Luxembourg is one of the three capitals of the European Union--alongside Strasbourg and Brussels--and is home to 11 EU institutions and two European schools, its place in the EU hasn’t generated much enthusiasm during the campaign. Back in 2022, the president of Union Syndicale Luxembourg--the local union for EU civil servants--deplored the fact that “fewer and fewer people are interested in coming to work in Luxembourg.”

This is down, says the union, to the purchasing power in Luxembourg, which is over 20% lower than in Brussels while the salaries are the same. According to the union, of the 11,000 European civil servants working in Luxembourg, 4,000 don’t actually live here.

Said the union president: “You have to ask yourself: why do so many people not want to live in this country?”

On this front, the Pirate Party wants to create a “large” regional fund for joint projects in the border area, in a bid to “improve the quality of life on both sides of the border” and to “provide clear criteria for a joint territorial approach.” Volt, meanwhile, supports a “massive introduction” of the European school system throughout the country, with the aim of eventually “completely replacing” the traditional Luxembourg school system.

The ADR is demanding that compulsory referenda be held for the following: amendments to European treaties, the admission of new members to the European Union, the transfer of sovereign rights to the EU and major changes to the Luxembourg constitution. These referenda would only be open to people of Luxembourg nationality.

9. Culture

In its programme, déi Gréng pledges to support queer and drag culture as art forms, and also proposes--in order to encourage cultural exchanges and “a spirit of international community”--offering state-funded Interrail tickets for people when they turn 18. The DP supports the creation of a “digital dictionary” of Luxembourg artists and local crafts, done by the culture ministry together with “various players in the field,” the aim being “to bring the creative power of our artists to the attention of young people.” The party also specifies that the culture budget should be at least 1% of the state budget. Déi Lenk explains that culture “is not a luxury, but a means of emancipation that must be accessible to everyone.” As such, they propose to create a “Higher School of Art” (“Kunsthochschule”) which would be integrated into Luxembourg’s academic fabric.