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Vatican Statement to U.N. on Labor

"Work Is the Essential Key to the Whole Social Question"

NEW YORK, FEB. 10, 2007 (Zenit)- Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, delivered Thursday to the 45th session of the Commission for Social Development of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council on the theme of promoting full employment and decent work for all.

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Mr. Chairman,

Since work is the essential key to the whole social question, and is the condition not only for social development but for the cultural and moral development of all of us, the theme of full employment and decent work has a perennial importance for the Commission for Social Development. It is one which is rightly reviewed regularly, in order to judge progress toward its achievement and to consider further means for its promotion.

My delegation is pleased to support much of what has been suggested in the secretary-general's report regarding the ongoing challenges in this field. A constant policy goal at national and international levels must surely be the creation of a balance between economic development on the one hand and social justice on the other, enshrined in law, which protects workers and promotes their rights, especially those who earn very little for their labor, or those whose work is potentially unsafe or humanly unrewarding. In that sense, full respect for the principles and rights contained in the 1998 International Labor Organization declaration is still the cornerstone for creating such a balance.

Recent years have witnessed a steady globalization and interconnection of markets with a growing fluidity in trade and in the sourcing of production in countries far from where goods are consumed.

Often motivated principally by the pressure for higher profits, this latter aspect of globalization has nevertheless brought work to many in the south while leading to inevitable readjustments in the north, often toward other sectors of employment. Now it falls to the international community and governments to ensure both an enabling economic environment and the availability of work which is decent and properly remunerated.

A very great number of workers would benefit from a fair outcome in the negotiations of the World Trade Organization's Doha Round. This chance currently risks being squandered, but a farsighted breakthrough could still be made, in particular regarding agricultural trade rules, to the benefit of many millions of the world's 1.1 billion agricultural workers, 60% of whom are in workforces with little or no social safety nets.

The evident consequences of such a shift for northern economies would in turn have to be mitigated by the deployment of that region's much greater resources to assist those affected and to address legitimate concerns for the way of life in the countryside.

Today, equal pay for equal work seems obvious, but women are still too often overlooked or undervalued in this regard, leading to discrimination against them in both rich and poor countries. The equality of women and men should be evident also in their treatment in the workplace, in salaries and in the acquisition of pensions.

The presence of women throughout the workplace can only help to improve it, revealing and overcoming the contradictions present in many societies, including those organized principally according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity. Equality will be seen immediately through equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers and fairness in career advancement.

Working parents, both women and men, should be assisted, if necessary by law, to bring their own unique and irreplaceable contribution to the upbringing of their children, to the evident benefit of the whole of society. It is also important that men and women with families receive adequate and fair wages that are sufficient to meet ordinary family needs, especially in view of their responsibilities toward their children.

A just wage will also eliminate the necessity, sometimes forced upon the very poor, to require their children to work, to the detriment of children's education, their childhood and their growth into well-adjusted adults. Beyond all other considerations, child labor exploitation is a moral question: It is a violation of the dignity with which every person, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, is endowed.

Another category that deserves the special attention of the commission is that of the very poor, present in every country without exception. There is no government, of however modest means, that should tolerate extreme poverty in today's world. Excluded from their right to work, shunned by those with work, the extreme poor should in fact be the particular concern of every government and every civilized society.

The world is ...

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