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Guiding Books 27 October Oct 2017 1100 27 October 2017

Young people and work: the Church joins the fray

“Il lavoro promesso”, or Promised Work, is the title of the book by the Jesuit Francesco Occhetta, focusing on industry 4.0, smart working and quality of production. We have read it for you

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“Our dream job. Free, creative, participatory and ethical.” This is the title of the 48th Social Weeks of Italian Catholics (Cagliari, 26-28 October). The preliminary document signed by Monsignor Filippo Santoro for the Scientific and Organising Committee states in no uncertain terms that “the challenge in the years to come is to make a shift in the existing paradigm, going from a model based on exploitation and boundless growth to one centred on the human being and on inclusive, sustainable and participatory human development. It is in this new framework that our dream job may be sought and found”. And he adds: “Our first concern is the relationship between young people and the labour market - a priority issue, in order to relaunch the socio-economic prospects of the country”.

The keystone? The Italian Catholics meeting in Cagliari draw their inspiration from a publication written by Father Francesco Occhetta, a Jesuit (like Pope Francis) and editor of “La Civiltà Cattolica”. This work is entitled “Il lavoro promesso” (Promised Work, Ancora, 144 pages, €15) and offers an important insight into the Church’s position on labour-related topics, with a particular focus on young people.

Right from the introductory pages, Occhetta puts the spotlight on some crucial questions: What has the word “work” come to mean? What is the significance of work in the lives of modern day men and women? What happens in a democratic society when wishing a young person a good day at work becomes a source of embarrassment? These questions underlie the quest for the “promised work”, which Occhetta splits into six phases, following the chapters of his book: work 4.0; the trade union crisis; work in the voluntary sector; domestic help and families; Ilva, Taranto - labour and the right to health; young people and work.

The publication encompasses some of the most common issues, such as union representation and the relationship between work and health, but the first and last chapters are perhaps the most significant. Let’s see them together.

Work 4.0

Occhetta writes: “…In this new and evolving scenario, it will no longer be necessary to go to the office, perhaps after a long commute, just so as to process documents and reply to emails, when most of the work can be done from home and at flexible times. Certainly, from a political and legislative standpoint, employment remains tied to the concept of work performance. However, large companies have already initiated a change that seems to be unstoppable. Disintermediation changes both the workplace, via interconnected virtual platforms, and the working hours, with the focus shifting from hours worked to quality of production.” So, if working hours are not dictated by the time card, then what else is looming on the horizon? Occhetta refers to two very topical concepts: smart working and crowd working (for more information, click here to read our interview with the labour law expert Ciro Cafiero).

While being the first to point out its drawbacks, Occhetta considers smart working an important opportunity: “According to the Politecnico di Milano Observatory, the number of companies adopting forms of smart working rose from 17% to 30% in one year. This labour model still hasn’t taken hold in small and medium-sized enterprises and in public administration, but its growth in other areas goes hand in hand with increased digital skills and the dissemination of technology.” And there’s more: “Flexible work is not simply about working from home, but about focusing on results rather than on time, ensuring the worker grows and protecting independent professionals.”

The workplace and working hours of the future will not be linked to the number of hours worked but to the quality of production.

Young people and work

Occhetta takes a snapshot of the present day, and dispels a few myths: “Young people are anything but passive and uninvolved; they suffer daily exploitation, what with endless internships, badly - or even unpaid - jobs, extortionate rent…with a result, millennials have very low salaries - on average roughly 15.1% lower”. Then, he puts forward three pragmatic proposals:

  • The first is an Opportunity Fund for every newborn child, inspired by Britain’s Child Trust Fund (a partly government- and partly private-funded account that grows based on the beneficiary’s academic results).
  • The Jesuit’s second proposal involves a special Emancipation Rent fund to support young people's transition to autonomy. This measure is inspired by Spain’s Renta de emancipaciòn, which provides young workers, aged 22 to 30 and who don’t live with their family, with a monthly allowance of €200.
  • The third proposal consists of a Young Family Package: a series of measures for young families, designed to reconcile work and family life and give working mothers greater tax breaks.