ROME — Politicians must act to assist workers as technology continues to transform jobs across Europe, said a committee of the European Union bishops’ commission.
Work is sustainable only “if it does not harm or destroy the livelihood of others and if it uses generously and equitably the gifts of creation,” said the social affairs commission of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.
The commission issued the report, “Shaping the future of work,” to “contribute with a socio-ethical reflection to the current debate on the future world of work in Europe.”
Published Nov. 5, the report outlined problems facing the world of work in the European Union today, highlighting factors such as the blurring of boundaries once separating professional and private life, the decreasing availability of traditional middle-class jobs and the difficulty young people have finding permanent positions that come with health and pension benefits.
The “polarization” of the job market with the disappearance of blue-collar jobs — with many being “relocated to a country with cheaper labor costs or replaced by robots or algorithms” — and the increased demand for highly-skilled labor is a serious problem that EU politicians must address, the bishops said.
The goal, the bishops said, is to make work accessible and sustainable for all, built on an economy that centers around the people it is meant to serve.
“Decent” work, they said, includes a safe environment, a living family wage, time off for spending with family and workers having a say in how their work is organized.
The report noted how “the spread of mobile work devices has facilitated the trend toward a culture of permanent availability,” which does not respect workers’ right to free time and rest. The bishops called for “a revised EU Working Time Directive” and recognition of employees’ “right to disconnect.”
The commission also proposed the EU recognize family work and volunteering. Family members who care for their children and the elderly “perform a vital service for the common good” and should therefore have access to health insurance and “be entitled to receive an adequate pension,” the document said.
Echoing concerns heard during the Synod of Bishops in October, the document noted how rapidly job security for young people is vanishing due to the rise of freelance work and short-term contracts that help corporations cut costs but provide no benefits to young workers.
To promote stable and more secure employment, the EU should discourage these practices and “help to convert temporary labor into permanent employment,” the document said.
Regarding sustainability, the committee also proposed that “the EU should become a frontrunner in promoting occupations and enterprises that care for the environment.”