That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.

Faced with current economic developments and the distress that employment is experiencing, it is necessary to reaffirm that work is essential for society, for families and for individuals. Work, in fact, directly concerns the human person, his life, his freedom and his happiness. The primary value of work is the good of the human person since it fulfills him as such, with his inner talents and his intellectual, creative and physical abilities. Hence the scope of work is not only profit and economics; its purpose above all regards man and his dignity. Man’s dignity is tied to work. I listened to several young workers who are unemployed, and this is what they told me: “Father, we at home — my wife, my children — we eat every day because they give us something to eat at the parish, or the club, or the Red Cross. But Father, I don’t know what it means to earn bread for the table, and I need to eat, but I need to know the dignity being a breadwinner”. And work means this! This dignity is wounded where work is lacking! Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed is likely, in fact, to be placed on the margins of society, becoming a victim of social exclusion. Many times it happens that people without work — I am thinking especially of the many unemployed young people today — slip into chronic discouragement, or worse, into apathy.

What can we say before the grave problem of unemployment affecting various European countries? It is the consequence of an economic system which is no longer capable of creating work, because it has placed an idol at the centre that is called money! Therefore, the various political, social and economic entities are called to promote a different approach based on justice and solidarity. This word now risks being removed from the dictionary. Solidarity: it seems like a dirty word! No! Solidarity is important, but this system is not very fond of it, it prefers to exclude it. Such human solidarity should ensure that everyone have the possibility to carry out a dignified form of work. Work is a good for everyone and it needs to be available for everyone. Periods of grave hardship and unemployment need to be addressed with the tools of creativity and solidarity. The creativity of entrepreneurs and brave artisans who look to the future with confidence and hope. And the solidarity requires that all members of society renounce something and adopt a more sober lifestyle to help all those who are in need. […]

Dear brothers and sisters, never stop hoping for a better future. Fight for it, fight. Do not be trapped in the vortex of pessimism, please! If each one does his or her part, if everyone always places the human person — not money — with his dignity at the centre, if an attitude of solidarity and fraternal sharing inspired by the Gospel is strengthened, you will be able to leave behind the morass of a hard and difficult economic season of work.

20 March 2014

© Copyright 1999 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Universal: Rights of workers and the unemployed
That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.