The 2014 Essay and Multimedia contest

The 2014 Essay and Multimedia contest was titled: Unemployment. The brief was:

It’s not easy to be young in the labour market today. Meaningful work is work that enhances human dignity. Globally, 75 million young people are looking for a job.

Explore these issues in an essay or multimedia presentation employing the Key Principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

The winning entry came from Tomo Dorrance:

Tomo Dorrance (Year 10), St Bedes College

In New Zealand, about 6.9 per cent of the labour force is unemployed. This is a struggle for most people but particularly discouraging to young people aged 15-24 who make up about 45% of that gure.

New Zealand is not unique in its alarming rate of unemployment among young people. The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2013, over 75 million young people word-wide want to work but are unable to secure a job. It warned that, in time, this may result in decades of disadvantage for young people, unlike in history where it was not a consequence.

There are several contributors to the high figure of young people being unemployed. The global nancial crisis of 2007-2008 was a significant factor. However there are currently perceptions from employers that stereotype young people as being unreliable or unmotivated. And this attitude can be changed to make a real difference. Pope Francis in 2013 spoke highly of young people and urged them to not give up despite the rising odds, “And then I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your studies, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping others … do not view the future with fear. Keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon”.

Pope John Paul II explained in his encyclical letter Laborem Exercens that “work is for people, not people for work”. This reiterated the principle of Catholic Social Teaching of “Human Dignity”. Meaningful work gives dignity to the person. They are able to provide for themselves and family and support others who rely on them. Pope Francis recently commented that “moreover there is no worse material poverty, I am keen to stress, than the poverty which prevents people from earning their bread and deprives them of the dignity of work.” Pope Francis raised this issue as a real concern that where a person cannot earn money to provide the basics in life it corrupts human dignity. Human dignity demonstrates that each and every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of respect.

Erosion of human dignity can also occur among young people who do have work but are not paid a living wage or are not offered with enough hours of work or not provided with enough guarantee for job security. The New Zealand Government recently proposed the idea of a minimum youth wage to combat the rising unemployment rates among young people. This would mean that employers did not have to pay the full minimum wage to this age group but instead a lower “youth rate”. This proposal can be viewed as making an assumption that work performed by young people is less signi cant than work performed by an older person. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work”. This means a person should be paid for the work they perform and not underpaid because of another factor like age. A “just wage” would also have to be a living wage. A living wage is payment whereby a person could meet basic costs of living for them and their family. This would include items such as food, accommodation, transport and education.

Likewise, a young person is not shown dignity when they are not offered enough hours, or have their hours reduced which results in them not being able to meet daily needs. It has also been a recent trend to make workers “casual workers” and have a changing roster. This brings uncertainty as to how much the young worker can earn and provides no job security for them to meet their own individual expenses. In the last few years a law change occurred, so that now in some employment contracts a person is hired on a 90 day trial period. This can be very daunting not knowing if the employment was going to continue into permanent employment. For a young person this is unnecessary stress at the beginning of their working life.

When a group of people, like young people aged 15-24 are treated differently, the Catholic Social Teaching principle of the “Common Good” is not adhered to, because the rights and responsibilities of all people are not respected.

In conclusion, if we apply the Principle of Human Dignity in our New Zealand Laws, and in our personal views, young people may not feel unwanted or undervalued for the work they do, whatever that may be. Jesus, of both divine and human nature, provided an example of the worth of a young person’s work by being a carpenter before beginning his public ministry.

Photo: Flickr

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