Shaping the future of work
While the European elections of 2014 were marked by a deep economic crisis, one of the major challenges of the subsequent five years has been the shaping of the digital and ecological transformation of the European economy and society. These two elements will continue to have a profound effect on the world of work. Just like the age of the industrial revolution, there are still numerous uncertainties concerning access to work, working conditions and the future role of work as a fundamental constituent of human life.
The Church has always considered work to be a human and therefore Christian priority: during the rapid industrialisation of the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII brought to light the consequences of the new technologies and mass production for human beings. Today, in the age of the digital revolution, the Church once again finds itself involved in the mission of reading the signs of the times – the new developments in digitisation, artificial intelligence and the ecological transition – and reclaiming the dignity of work for all.
Based on the social teaching of the Church, this document was drawn up by the COMECE Commission on Social Affairs in close consultation with the European Catholic movements. Its aim is to contribute to a socio-ethical reflection on the current debate surrounding the future world of work in Europe. It will fuel the discussion on the programme for work of the next European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as the initiative on the future of work launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to mark its 100th anniversary in 2019.
The reflections of COMECE will encourage the EU institutions to work on a joint European vision that will guarantee that these changes benefit everyone as well as society at large.
While highlighting the importance of voluntary and family work, the contribution concentrates primarily on paid work. It underlines the need for a clear European vision that will shape the ongoing transformation and enable everyone to find their place in this new world of work. The text examines the consequences of the present ongoing structural changes and puts forward a vision to promote a future work model that will bring dignity, sustainability and the participation of all.
The reflection ends with 17 political recommendations, which include in particular:
Promote integral human development (1):
The EU and its member states are invited to align their policies with the objective of the EU Treaty for a social market economy. To this end, the EU should strictly respect the objectives relating to the climate, work and poverty contained in the Europe 2020 strategy, and should place sustainable development objectives at the heart of a new strategy for 2030.
Guarantee fair working conditions in all kinds of work (3): European legislations should guarantee that everyone working under someone else’s control should benefit from a set of effective rights, including medical and social security protection, and access to training and to the information they need.
Promote the recognition of family and voluntary work (5): Family members who raise children and who act as carers provide a service that is vital to the common good. They should therefore have access to medical insurance and the right to an adequate pension.
Help workers in the transition towards the new world of work (15): The document recommends reinforcing the support for workers affected by this transition by transforming the Globalisation Adjustment Fund (GAF) into a European transition fund, which is given additional resources and is aimed at helping workers to adapt to the new world of work.
Promote fiscal justice between work and capital (17): A more equitable tax system could help to mobilise resources to finance a fair transition in the world of work. The Council of the EU is invited to improve the taxation of the digital economy and to agree to a global directive on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) capable of eliminating imbalance and preferential regimes that allow tax evasion.
Mgr Antoine Hérouard
Auxiliary Bishop of Lille
President of the COMECE Commission on Social Affairs
Translated from the original text in French