How can one think that developed countries have such strong unemployment?” The subject of work could not be lacking among those addressed by Pope Francis this morning, February 17, 2017, in the course of his visit to the University Roma Tre.
Answering the questions of some students, the Pontiff stressed the need to find answers to the question of unemployment, which is increasing especially among the new generations, where even in European countries the number of unemployed or precarious is very high. Francis formulated his thought beginning with the concept of the “liquid society” of the recently deceased philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. “Against liquidity “we must propose “concreteness,” he said.
His thought went immediately to the economy. “What is the drama of the economy today?” he asked. “The liquid economy, which creates a lack of work, unemployment,” he answered.
In this context, he drew on a personal anecdote that gives the figure of the liquid economy. He mentioned an Argentine business friend of his, who saw a colleague of his who did a buy and sell operation directly from the computer, “and in 10 minutes – were the Pope’s off-the-cuff words – he transferred goats from America to the Orient and earned US $10,000, in 10 minutes, all liquid.”
“And when there is liquidity in the economy there is no concrete work,” was his bitter reflection. From whence the question then flowed, which he addressed to the students: “Our dear mother Europe, Europe’s identity, how can we think that developed countries have such strong youth unemployment?
Bergoglio then rattled off some figures linked to unemployment, without wishing to mention the countries to which they refer: 40% of young people 25 years old and under are without work in one country, in another country, 47%, in yet another 50%, in another that is closer almost 60%.”
It is about European countries, he explained. “This liquidity of the economy takes away the concreteness of work and removes the culture of work, because one cannot work, young people don’t know what to do,” he lamented amid the applause.
Francis then said that a youth who doesn’t find work, “exploited two or three days here, two or three days there,” in the end develops “bitterness of heart,” which can lead to tragic choices.
Evoking implicitly the story of the 30-year-old from Friuli who took his life in the past days after having written a note with reflections on the lack of work, they can lead “to suicide.” “Those who know say, — I’m not sure, — that the true statistics of youth suicides aren’t published,” he continued.
But the absence of employment can lead also to other tragic choices. “This lack of work leads me to enroll in a terrorist army and so I’ve something to do or I give meaning to my life: it’s horrible,” lamented the Holy Father.
Finally, the Bishop of Rome described the “market economy” as a “liquid economy.” The assignment he gave to the young people is to transform “liquidity” into “concreteness.” The economy “must be concrete and, to resolve social, economic and cultural problems there must be concreteness, he added.
According to the Pontiff, “these problems must also be addressed by the University, to find solutions to propose to real problems against this liquid culture.” The “key word” today is “concreteness,” he concluded.