A Universal Wage: An urgent social debate

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Gaël Giraud, SJ

 Gaël Giraud, SJ / Church Life / 22 June 2020


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In his Letter to the People’s Movements published on Easter Day, April 12, 2020, Pope Francis called for the establishment of a “universal basic wage”: “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights”[1].

The proposal has not failed to elicit both enthusiastic and critical reactions. Does this statement mean that the Holy Father embraces the cause of a universal income to be paid to all without conditions? Or does he intend to defend the principle of a fair wage for all workers? And then, if we are really talking about a universal income without conditions, how can our faith guide us in evaluating the practical conditions for its implementation? Or is it simply an unrealizable goal?

These are especially urgent questions today since the often inhuman management of the coronavirus pandemic in many countries threatens to plunge a large part of our planet into an economic depression at least as serious as that experienced in the 1930s.[2] In the face of the explosion of unemployment and poverty, which will probably accompany us throughout the 2020s, even in much of Europe and the United States, could this “universal basic wage” be considered one of the solutions to help us get out of the deflationary trap? Could it also help solve the huge challenge of global poverty?

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