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May first. Mons. Santoro: “Good work is the result of cultural conversion”  

The President of the Commission of the Italian Bishops’ Conference that released the Message for Labour Day highlighted to SIR the most relevant passages of the text. He reiterated the contribution to “the work that we want, free, creative, participatory and based on solidarity”, launched in Cagliari, during the 48thSocial Week of Italian Catholics


“Having a job is not enough: it must be a job that is not against life, dignity, nor against the full development of the human person”, declared Msgr. Filippo Santoro, Archbishop of Taranto, President of the Italian Bishops’ Commission for social problems and labour, justice and peace, protection of the creation, commenting on the message released by the same Commission on the occasion of Labour Day.

The concept of “good work” recurs throughout the bishops’ Message. Which are the distinctive features of this concept today?

Good work reflects dignified work. This statement was the main theme of the 48thSocial Week of Italian Catholics in Cagliari. That is, a form of labour whose main objective is not to maximise profits of mere financial gains. Good work is what enables individual self-realization, that respects human dignity and is in harmony with the workers’ environment and living conditions.

Good work is the result of cultural conversion.

What’s the starting point?

Italy’s present situation – especially the South, marked by the persistence of unemployed youths aged 15-29, with rates up to 50% –

Where the need for a job, a good job, is a fundamental necessity. The chief problem of Italian society concerns the quality and the dignity of labour. We highlighted the need for a meaningful job, one that extends beyond the monetary aspect to encompass the personal and social spheres.

What contribution can the Church give to the challenge regarding the quantity, quality and dignity of labour characterising our society?

First of all, human dignity must occupy a central role. This means

To create jobs that respect and enhance human dignity, which cannot be taken for granted.  

The centrality of human dignity involves seeking all possible ways leading to appropriate job opportunies, especially for the young, along with procedures enabling their achievement. Furthermore, in addition to denouncing inappropriate, undignified work, there is an indication of “good practices”, enabling access to dignified work.

This is an area on which the Church has been focusing her efforts…

The Policoro Project, involving so-called “Job Seekers”, now defined “Job-construction sites”,  the enhancement of oratories not only as venues for leisure activity but also as places where the human person is led to discover the significance of labour and guided to find it …. 
The purpose is the emergence and dissemination of constructive experiences not only in terms of economic return but also involving a different social environment. This must be done without overlooking the situation of the most vulnerable: work for young people, for women, for the disabled. Along with inclusive employment for migrants.

As was done in Cagliari, also the Message highlights the Country’s urgent challenges that Institutions are called to address…

Indeed. First of all, it is necessary to remove constraints to those who create job opportunities. It means, for example, that the public administration must facilitate virtuous entrepreneurship or youth employment. We reiterate the important role played by the education environment (schools, universities, vocational schools) and ask that learning programs – not only in technical or vocational schools – be oriented to the task carried out in society, namely, to labour.

It involves triggering enthusiasm in the young, triggering their creativity so that the workplace is not perceived as a place where energies are consumed in a passive or mechanical way or one that ensures a monthly wage. It’s important that labour be understood not only as something confined to the economy but as something that contributes to self-fulfilment.

This desire needs to be stimulated, but it can happen only if the young person is faced with options leading to the realization of that desire.

There is also a third passage…

On the protection of weaker social brackets

Having a job is not enough to overcome poverty.

Given the present situation, having a job today is no guarantee of employment in the future. That’s why it’s necessary that employment is coupled by competence and fruitful relational environments. It means that work must not be carried out in an automatized setting but within a network of relations, i.e., in a creative environment.

On May Day we can’t forget the high number of work-related deaths since the beginning of the year….

Despite increased attention for occupational safety, we continue registering tragic situations throughout Italy. It’s one of the most painful aspects.

Safety must be ensured at the moment of employment. Workplace safety demands vigilance and it requires demanding that jobs aim at workers’ dignity and safety.

From your vantage point, what is the current situation of labour in Italy?

We are conducting a battle to overcome unemployment. We must do everything possible to avoid deleterious jobs, undignified work , and jobs that have a risk of death. It is equally necessary to raise awareness on problems like illegal hiring, eco-Mafia, agri-Mafia … But there are also positive aspects. Innovation and creativity are increasing. Automatized mechanisms for the completion of an assignment are being accompanied by resourcefulness and imagination in the workplace. If this approach turns into an educational itinerary for our youths, without being confined to elite groups, it will boost innovation in terms of the possibility of growth guided by human conscience and sensitivity, whereby the human person has infinite value along with the ability to create newness around him.

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