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Sunday October 8, 2006 VIEWPOINT
The right of work -
Work is necessary
by Nadine Bushell,
Member of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice

Working allows people to earn an income that allows them to provide for their family, own property, develop a sense of purpose and a sense of community with others.

 It is therefore essential to promoting human dignity. Given its importance, everyone who is capable of working is entitled to work. Therefore from the Church’s perspective, unemployment is a major social problem. 

“Work is a fundamental right and a good for mankind (Gaudium et Spes), a useful good, worthy of man because it is an appropriate way for him to give expression to and enhance his human dignity.

 The Church teaches the value of work not only because it is always something that belongs to the person but also because of its nature as something necessary (Rerum Novarum). Work is needed to form and maintain a family (Laborem Exercens), to have a right to property (Rerum Novarum), to contribute to the common good of the human family (Laborem Exercens).

In considering the moral implications that the question of work has for social life, the Church cannot fail to indicate unemployment as a ‘real social disaster’ (Laborem Exercens), above all with regard to the younger generations.”

Unemployment exists for different reasons. Economic theory suggests that there are several reasons for unemployment such as:
1.         unemployment, associated with the normal turnover of labour, i.e. people leaving jobs for various reasons and then taking time before they are able to find another;
2.         unemployment, caused by changes in the economy which result in for example some industries and occupations suffering a decline in the demand for what they produce while other industries and occupations enjoy an increase in demand.  These changes often require shift in labour patterns that may not occur quickly enough.
3.         unemployment, caused by insufficient demand by the population to purchase enough goods and services for the labour force to be fully employed.

While these represent legitimate reasons for the existence of unemployment, it is imperative that policy makers in governments, international development agencies and financial institutions find ways to minimise high levels of unemployment, by seeking to promote those policies that aim to create employment opportunities for all those capable of working, and to enable all persons who may need additional tools to become capable of working to acquire them so that they can work.

“Work is a good belonging to all people and must be made available to all who are capable of engaging in it. ‘Full employment’ therefore remains a mandatory objective for every economic system oriented towards justice and the common good.

A society in which the right to work is thwarted or systematically denied, and in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, ‘cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace (Centesimus Annus).

An important role and, consequently, a particular and grave responsibility in this area falls to ‘indirect employers’ (Laborem Exercens), that is, those subjects – persons or institutions of various types – in a position to direct, at the national or international level, policies concerning labour and the economy.”

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