Combat exploitation, restore dignity to work: Pope Francis

Addressing the Vatican Diplomatic Corps on 9 January, Pope highlighted three priority areas of concern for the year 2023: migrants, the economy and work as well as “our common home.”

“We live in a world so interconnected that, in the end, the actions of each have consequences for all,” Pope Francis said.

Here, I wish to draw attention to three areas in which this interconnection uniting today’s human family is particularly felt, and where greater solidarity is especially needed.

The first area is that of migration, which concerns entire regions of the world. Often it is an issue of individuals fleeing from war and persecution, and who face immense dangers. Then too, “every human being has the right to freedom of movement… to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there” and everyone should have the possibility of returning to his or her own country of origin.

Migration is one issue where we cannot “move ahead at random”. To understand this, we need but look at the Mediterranean, which has become a massive tomb. Those lost lives are emblematic of the shipwreck of civilization, as I noted during my trip to Malta last spring. In Europe, there is a pressing need to reinforce the regulatory framework through the approval of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, so as to put in place suitable policies for accepting, accompanying, promoting and integrating migrants. At the same time, solidarity requires that the burden of the operations needed to aid and care for the shipwrecked does not fall entirely on the people of the main landing points.

The second area concerns the economy and work. The crises of recent years have highlighted the limits of an economic system aimed more at creating profit for a few than at providing opportunities for the benefit of the many; an economy more focused on money than on the production of useful goods. This has created more fragile businesses and unjust labour markets. There is a need to restore dignity to business and to work, combating all forms of exploitation that end up treating workers as a commodity, for “without dignified work and just remuneration, young people will not truly become adults and inequality will increase”.

The third area is the care of our common home. We are continually witnessing the results of climate change and their serious effects on the lives of entire peoples, either by the devastation they produce, as in the case of Pakistan in the areas that experienced flooding, where outbreaks of disease borne by stagnant water continue to increase; or in vast areas of the Pacific Ocean, where global warming has caused great damage to fishing, which is the basis of daily life for entire populations; or in Somalia and the entire Horn of Africa, where drought is causing severe famine; and in recent days too, in the United States, where sudden and intense blizzard conditions caused numerous deaths.

Last summer, the Holy See chose to accede to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as a means of lending its moral support to the efforts of all states to cooperate, in accordance with their responsibilities and respective capabilities, in offering an effective and appropriate response to the challenges posed by climate change. It is to be hoped that the steps taken at COP27 with the adoption of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, however limited, can raise everyone’s awareness of an urgent issue that can no longer be ignored.  Promising goals, however, were agreed upon during the recent United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) held in Montreal last month.

60th anniversary of Pacem in Terris

Pope Francis also noted that this year marks the 60th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical, , which warned against the threats to peace of that time.

He concluded, adding that “building peace requires that there be no place for ‘violation of the freedom, integrity and security of other nations, no matter what may be their territorial extension or their capacity for defence’. ”  This can come about only if, in every single community, there does not prevail that culture of oppression and aggression in which our neighbour is regarded as an enemy to attack, rather than a brother or sister to welcome and embrace.

“It is a source of concern that, in many parts of the world, there is a weakening of democracy and of the breadth of freedom that it enables, albeit with all the limitations of any human system. It is women or ethnic minorities who often pay the price for this, as too do entire societies in which unrest leads to social tensions and even armed clashes,” the pope continued.

“In many areas, a sign of the weakening of democracy is heightened political and social polarization, which does not help to resolve the urgent problems of citizens,” he warned.


Address of his Holiness Pope Francis to the members of the diplolmatic corps accredited to the Holy See (


January 9 2023 Audience to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Pope Francis (Vatican Media/YouTube)

Future of Work project

Future of Work

ACI has been considering the possibility of researching Future of Work issues, including the possibility of a universal basic wage, the need for which is particularly evident in poorer countries and in the gig economy within all countries, in conjunction with the Vatican-based Future of Work: Labour After Laudato Si‘ project.

Last month (and before the Pope’s message), we contacted the project with a view to participating in a project that falls short of a Universal Basic Income, but which may achieve the same objects, at least in some economic systems (such as Australia’s). Proving that universal wage and welfare safety nets can work in wealthier economies can provide a way forward for emerging economies. The text of the approach to the Future of Work project included an outline of the two parts of the research being considered.

The first would focus on the rights of workers to a just wage and other employment conditions and protections, with particular emphasis on the rights of workers who do not have secure and full time work, ie workers in the gig economy. In Australia minimum wage rates are based on full time work of 38 hours per week. “Casual” workers, that is those who have no ongoing employment rights, typically receive a casual loading of 25%, which is partly based on compensation for not having paid holidays and sick leave. The impact of the Covid-19 virus on industries with a high degree of casual employment (hospitality and retail, mainly) has demonstrated that casual workers in those industries who are required to stay away from work through illness or who are not engaged because of depressed custom are effectively left without proper support and are not able to readily access unemployment benefits. This part of the research might be called the wages (or employment) safety net.

The second part of the project would look at the social safety net and its capacity to be integrated with the wages safety net so that casual and gig economy workers may be supported by the social safety net when they have inadequate work. In general, casual workers who are unable to secure sufficient work are entitled to a means-tested unemployment benefit, but it is bureaucratic, lacking flexibility and set at poverty levels. These kinds of problems have led some to argue for a Universal Basic Income. However, this second part of the project would look at other measures that are capable of providing sufficient support for workers. It would not be based on a rejection of the concept of a Universal Basic Income, but would contain the critical elements of the concept (through income and services providing for adequate food, health, housing, education, etc), perhaps demonstrating that taking the steps towards a Universal Basic Income would be feasible.

One of the drivers of this research would be the need to develop a more effective way of supporting workers with family responsibilities; and to provide the social framework where couples can commit to raising a family without the fear of poverty. This is an important consideration arising from Catholic Social Teaching.

If you are interested in this project, please contact Stefan Gigacz at


Future of Work: Labour After Laudato Si’