Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:1 (NRSV).

The dignity of work in the context of a labour shortage

Since 1974, the Québec Assembly of Catholic Bishops has published its “Message for May 1st” for International Workers Day and the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, their patron saint. Many of the messages address the impoverishment and vulnerability of workers, especially women; increasingly inhuman working conditions; the plight of those who migrate to find work; and the imperative of solidarity with the unemployed.

In these early years of the 2020s, it is not jobs that are lacking in Quebec, but people who are available to fill vacancies, even as the economy continues to grow. We are experiencing a labour shortage that may last for several years.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of the Church, which are our trustworthy reference-points in addressing poverty and injustice, contribute to our understanding of this new shortage of labour. This new scarcity does not immediately bring about an end to poverty, injustice, and inequality, but creates in turn a new set of sufferings. By calling us to place love of God and love of neighbour1 at the centre of our lives, these two sources, the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching, help us to identify attitudes to adopt and actions to take in this situation.

Causes for the shortage

The causes of the shrinking labour market are complex. The Institut du Québec, for example, identifies two long-term structural factors (the aging of the population, and the digital revolution) and three situational factors related to the Covid-19 pandemic (income support programs; border closures; and doubts, uncertainties, and changes of plans due to the health crisis). Other analysts add that difficult working conditions and low wages in several sectors are important contributing factors2.

In the fall of 2021, the Quebec government announced several measures to offset the current labour shortage in the medium- and long-term3. As Christians, we welcome this effort, while putting forward certain concerns that must be kept in mind when crafting socio-economic policies.

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