The seminar was convened by “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si’” Project and the International Catholic Migration Commission.
Participants discussed values as the foundation to promote social justice in the realm of work. Sharing some key elements of ecumenical social thought, Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, highlighted the significance of the individual and collective rights: “Work is both an individual but also a collective enterprise. Social justice could only be realized when the individual rights are engaged in the context of the collective labour.”
Mtata also reflected on the dignity of work, justice, and solidarity in the workplace. “The inherent dignity and worth of every person as a worker is central to ecumenical social thought. Work must be viewed as a means through which individuals can express their God-given abilities and contribute to the well-being of society.”
Related to dignity of work are just and fair working conditions. “This includes fair wages, safe and healthy workplaces, reasonable working hours, and the right to organize and collectively bargain,” Mtata said.
“The idea of solidarity among workers, encouraging cooperation and support among individuals and communities…emphasizes the importance of unity in addressing issues related to work, advocating for the rights of all workers,” Mtata added.
Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for economic and ecological justice, observed that the world of work is profoundly impacted by deepening polycrises as well as by rapid developments in AI and other technologies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic spawned a global recession that adversely impacted employment and work globally – not only in terms of job losses in certain industries but also in terms of a sharp increase in both paid and unpaid care and social reproductive work that mostly women take on. Though there are signs of recovery today, such recovery has been uneven. Low-income countries in the global South have not returned to pre-pandemic levels of employment.”
Moreover, according to a study by the International Labour Organisation, countries in debt distress are reporting a significantly higher jobs gap that those that are not in debt crises. “From previous crises, we know that youth, immigrants, women, low-skilled and older workers bear the brunt of job losses,” Peralta said.
The ongoing technological transition presents great challenges. For one, it has enabled a gig economy that is cementing precarious work conditions especially among youth. “The flexibility and independence that may be enjoyed by gig workers often comes at the expense of job security, Peralta added.