Pope Francis has voiced his concern about the situation of unemployed young people on several occasions. The pontiff has made another call to action at an event in the Paul VI hall to the members of the Italian Trade Union Congress on the occasion of its 18th National Congress. “It is a foolish and short-sighted society that forcing the elderly to work too much and for too long instead of the young people, who should do so for themselves and for everyone”, said Pope Francis to those present.

“Perhaps our society does not understand the unions either because it does not see them fighting for the rights of those who are in the existential peripheries, people without work, immigrants, the poor; or simply they do not understand why the face of corruption has entered the hearts of some trade unionists.”

The social compact. Francisco explained that “when young people are left out of the labour market, companies miss out on their energy, enthusiasm, innovation and joy of living.”

“A new social compact on labour is therefore urgent to reduce working hours for those who are at the end of their careers, to create jobs for young people who have the right and duty to work”.

Fair pensions. The Pope expressed regret that there are “so many children who work and do not study” in the world. He was also critical about “discarding” sick workers when, in his view, employment also has a “therapeutic function”, and that “the right to a fair pension, neither too low or too high, is not always recognised”.

In this regard, he noted that “golden pensions” are “an offence, no less serious than low pensions because they allow the inequalities that arise during a person’s working life last forever”.

The role of trade unions. The Argentine pontiff warned that “in our advanced capitalist society, unions run the risk of misplacing their prophetic nature (defending the poor) and of resembling the institutions and the powers that be, of which they should be critical”.

“Unions, with the passage of time, have come to resemble politics too much, or rather, political parties, their language and their style”, he lamented. In addition, he explained that trade unionists should be “sentinels” who protect employees but they should also direct their attention towards those “excluded from work” who “are also excluded from their entitlements and democracy”.