Repenser le travail et son avenir - Une perspective inter-religieuse - Réunion au BIT

International Labor Organization (ILO)

Rethinking Labour and the Future of Work- An Interreligious Perspective


 ILO – Permanent Mission of the Holy See – World Council of Churches

With H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary of Relations with States,Holy See

& Mr. Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO


25 February 2019


Background information


The Permanent Mission of the Holy See organized jointly with the International Labour Organisation (in the framework of its 100thanniversary) and the World Council of Churches,a Special Event on the key issues of “Rethinking Labour and the Future of Work” in our world marked by the joint effects of globalization (relocation of labour in cheapest countries, artificial intelligence linked with robotization & automation), which has lead to a strong decrease of job and working conditions.

This panel discussion highlighted the need for religious traditions to work together to reaffirm common values protecting human dignity, and to mobilise their communities to that effect.

Needless to say, the strongest message came from H.E. Archbishop Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, who very clearly presented the Social Teaching of the Church in relation with to the challenges of globalization on working conditions.


  1. List of speakers






  1. Summary of the presentation by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher:
  • The globalization of economic processes, both at the local and international level, has led to profound changes in the so-called “decision-making” sector of labour – whether political decisions or legislative acts – to such an extent that our current attitudes regarding work tend to subtract from the real dimension of labour which is a human reality beyond time and place.
  • In fact, the uncontrolled development of financial activity that occurred in recent decades has not been connected with the real base of the economy, leading to what are known as “financial bubbles”, a vehicle for the crisis of employment, institutions and values.
  • This inversion of the order between means and goals has marginalized great masses of the world’s population, deprived them of decent labour, and left them “without possibilities, without any means of escape: “It is no longer simply the phenomenon of exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; [...] The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers.”
  • Hence, the concept of “ethical finance”, is understood as a set of principles and values that can inspire economic agents, both savers and investors, to not be exclusively concerned about individual self-interest, but to seek higher goals, aimed at the common good and safeguarding the natural rights of the weakest and most disadvantaged.
  • Work is a person’s ability to transform into reality his/ her talents and to realise everyone’s vocation. Under this subjective component, work acquires dignity, because it draws on the ultimate meaning of the human condition.
  • All the teachings on labour expounded by the Catholic Church in those years came from that principle: that the human person should always be at the centre of every political, economic, social and even individual decision.
  • As a characteristic and unique feature of the new ILO, workers would be recognised as equal partners with employers, trade unions and governments, creating the so-called “tripartite organization.”
  • As a matter of fact, all the activities of the ILO stem from the idea first expressed in the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia, in which the ILO reformulated its guiding principles and called on member States to develop policies and financial structures that would favour the “material development and spiritual progress” of each and every person.
  • The reflections and the challenges for the human family looking at the future of work allow us to clarify that the sustainability of the global economy depends on overcoming the employment policy failures and rectifying those failures that led to the crisis.
  • The policy complexities arising from these circumstances are undeniable, but one very clear conclusion can be drawn from them: work fulfills three basic human needs in our societies – the wish to develop capabilities, the need to interact with others and the need to earn one’s sustenance.
  • This objective can be achieved if the world of labour - those who work in it and govern it - takes up its social responsibility, balancing the needs of efficiency, productivity, profitability or reduction of resources (human and economic) with a dimension ethically anchored to the deepest values of human existence.
  • There is the real danger that, in the near future, our economies will be characterised by large numbers of unemployed persons and large inequalities that will fuel social unrest. It is up to us to invert this trend. The recognition of the centrality of the human person suggests that we invest more in people than in technology, because technology is ultimately the product of human intelligence and creativity. By investing in people, we will create a wealthier and more just society in which persons will find, by their work, their complete identity, the fulfilment of their aspirations and finally the efficacy of their talents.


  1. Handbooks on Decent Work, prepared in partnership with the Holy See,
    distributed at this meeting and freely available online:


  1. The Caritas In Veritate Foundation Working Papers –
    “Rethinking Labour. Ethical Reflections on the Future of Work”(
    See page 241 for the full text of Archbishop Gallagher

  2. “Convergences: Decent Work and Social Justice in Religious Traditions -
    A Handbook”

Full text available online:
Texte intégral en français :

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