Holy See Speaks to Problem of Unemployment

Calls for Mom-Friendly Schedules and Protection for Nannies

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GENEVA, Switzerland, JUNE 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The global issue of unemployment points to a structural problem that was identified well before the onset of the world financial crisis, according to the Holy See. But its consequence is a scenario that “we must do our very best to avoid.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent representative of the Holy See to the U.N. offices in Geneva, made this observation last Wednesday at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference.

The archbishop noted how “sovereign governments in most instances have not been able to find a formula for economic growth that restores jobs and includes new employment opportunities for the millions who are looking for work.”

Thus, “unemployment rates remain high and show no sign of recovery in the short term and the long term prognosis is uneven.”

Archbishop Tomasi noted that young people are particularly affected: some 78 million in the 15-24 age group were unemployed in 2010, a rate 2.6 times that of adult unemployment.

The problem of youth unemployment “has a wider and deeper impact that affects society as a whole,” the prelate explained, noting the tendency of the under- or unemployed to lose confidence and eventually drop out of the job market. The uncertainty over working opportunities and conditions creates psychological instability, he cautioned, meaning life-plans such as marriage become increasingly difficult.

“This leads to situations of human decline, to say nothing of the waste of social resources,” the prelate said, quoting “Caritas in Veritate.”

Women, too, are facing a particularly difficult employment situation, the Holy See representative noted.

Among other factors, Archbishop Tomasi pointed to a “cross cutting discrimination” reality — “the fact that labour markets remain so inflexible and find it difficult to reconcile the work model and schedule with the responsibilities for childcare and the care of other dependents that many in the workforce carry.”

“Generating and taking care of new generations is the human activity which is closest to economic investment, and the family itself is a sort of ‘relational’ investment,” he proposed.

The prelate said that support for women’s contribution to economy and society should include such things as affordable childcare and flexible working arrangements.

“But it would also require revaluing the ‘common good’ dimension of women’s investment in generation — that is, in meaningful and durable relationships which open the new generations to the quest for beauty, for sense, for meaning — which are undoubtedly the most significant drivers to human, economic and societal innovation and progress,” he stated.

Care chain

The Holy See representative also called for special attention for domestic workers.

“The adoption of a new Convention on domestic work is essential by the experience of the persistent exclusion of these workers from even the basic labour protections,” he said.

Archbishop Tomasi noted the vicious circle faced by many domestic workers — often migrant women who leave their families in order to sustain them economically.

“They provide care for their employer’s children or elderly, in exchange for a wage that can improve the material quality of life of their own families, which they can seldom visit,” he noted. “This pattern creates a sort of ‘global care chain’ which is structurally built on the disruption of basic family relationships for all women involved.”

He said this disruption “deserves more attention within a ‘relational’ approach to the economic situation of women, as it is well known that families play a crucial role in providing social capital for human and economic development, especially in low-income countries.”

Archbishop Tomasi recalled Blessed John Paul II’s definition of work as a “hard good.”

“It is good not only in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it,” he explained.

The prelate concluded by assuring the Holy See’s “rich tradition that is matched by its experience across the globe and across the centuries; journeying with organizations such as the ILO, it forges an ever-expanding communion that favors the good of everyone and of all peoples.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32843?l=english

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