Young people from the European Young Christian Workers (YCW) national movements of Portugal, Spain, Catalonia, France, Italy, England and Wales have gathered together in Porto, Portugal in order to discuss ‘The Future of Work’. This YCW leaders’ conference took place between 25th-29th July 2019 and was attended by members of the International Secretariat of the International Coordination of the Young Christian Workers (ICYCW).
The YCW is a Catholic charity for England and Wales, based in Trafford Park and we believe it is essential for young people to be at the heart of changing the world around them, inspired by the message of the Gospels and Catholic Social Teaching.
This is what has made the YCW stand out since its inception in 1925 in Belgium by Fr Joseph Cardijn, who was later to be made a Cardinal for his work with the movement. Cardinal Cardijn once said: “The YCW is a movement of young people who, in and by and with young people, in and by all the acts of their daily lives, form each other, support each other, help each other, love each other and together prepare themselves for their future.”
The newly elected National President of YCW England & Wales, Marc Besford (above right), who organised the conference this year said: “Young people were able to share their experiences of working life, what motivates them and what makes them happy. They also discussed concerns about the future of work, since we are facing a new revolution that is evolving faster than ever. With the growth of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, we have reached a point of unprecedented challenge and this is already being felt by many young workers around the world.
“We are the first generation to face the challenges of technological evolution on this scale but we believe we have been given the gift of creativity and have the will to adapt to these changes positively. We are social beings by nature and want to contribute to society through work. We have an inherent thirst for knowledge, a will to keep looking for new ways and how to explore them. Moreover, we always seek better ways to communicate, we aim to stay connected and we believe that it is through improved communication that we can have a greater impact on society – and the workplace is no exception.”
The conference concluded by collecting a set of issues facing young workers and ideas about how we should all respond to them. Their joint statement said:
Young people are concerned about:
- The increase in precarious work and decreasing job security;
- Low salaries at the start of their working life;
- The abolishment of workers’ rights;
- Workers’ mental health;
- The impact of work on the environment;
- The lack of training and job opportunities.
We believe that:
- Young people should be treated with dignity and respect;
- Young workers should be sufficiently paid for the work that they do, and be provided with adequate knowledge to do their job;
- Young people must not be discriminated against solely because they are young;
- Employers should allow an improved work-life balance to encourage adequate rest therefore enabling better mental wellbeing.
Our call to society is that they pay attention to what we say, to rely on us to conceive a future where:
- Technology is there to assist and improve the quality of life for human beings; never the other way round;
- Their God-given dignity can be respected in every aspect, especially in the workplace, where they fulfil their vocation;
- Sustainability, freedom, peace and love are present in every aspect of our lives, for example: in politics and in all our places of work, study and leisure, and in our homes.
Marc Besford added: “Pope Francis recently said to young people: ‘Don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity and your creativity to changing our world. You are the now of God, and he wants you to bear fruit!’ The YCW is keen to be part of this mission.”