Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dignity of Labor

A recent symposium on labor, and reviewing a survey made among the young people in the Seoul Diocese, discovered the difference between Catholic youth and other young people was not much different. Noticed was an estrangement between religion and life: helped along by the secularization and middle-class life-style of many. The survey will be a sign post for the direction of the programs for the young people.

Both Catholic papers had articles on the symposium. 1,818 middle and high-school students when asked what thoughts came to mind when they heard the word labor. From a list presented, the following were the percentages for each: effort 30%, difficult 47.5%, devoted 3.5%, shovels and tools 2.6%, employment 6%, strikes 0.5%, capitalism 1.6%, poverty 1.3%, satisfaction 0.8%, humanity 1.5%, politics 0.4%, salary 4.1%.

When the question of who do they see as laborers in our society  the number-one  response was the apartment building security people. Followed by sales people in markets, and those working to set up Internet connections. Labor was something difficult, a not surprising answer coming from  students.

The young people when asked what they wanted to do in life: 14% teachers, doctors 6 %, scientists 4.5 %, policemen 4 %, entertainers 3%. Students selected occupations not considered labor.  This was similar to another survey that was made in 2014.

The Church has not made the message clear that we are in God's country doing God's work as Christians here and now. We are in the world but not of the world. We are to transform society, but we have not made this mission of Christians clear to our young people. We are part of a 'contrast society' that has not been internalized.

Many students take  pride in their Catholicism but when asked would they help a fellow worker who was treated unjustly, only 35 % said they would. Sadness comes when we realize the efforts to give students a Christian value system fails to compete  with what they have picked up from society.  

Only 8 % of the students have had a part-time job during their years of schooling. Study is a full-time job for many and finding time to do anything  else is difficult. Work is something sacred. Most of us will spend more time working than sleeping. However, the treatment that workers receive does not coincide with what we believe about the dignity of work and workers.

One participant mentioned there is still the idea of high and low when it comes to labor. This viewpoint colors the way labor is looked upon and the reason  physical labor does not receive remuneration and respect as other occupations.

A bishop at the close of the symposium hoped that the interest in work, and its understanding will be a long-lasting  influence on the lives of the students.
"Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23).  These words should apply to all we do.