Workfare for the 'Workshy'...

How does his new initiative sit with Catholic Social Teaching?
Welfare reform has always been a thorny issue and it looks very much like finally it is going to take place. The Telegraph today highlights what could be a 'welfare revolution'.

Iain ('let's here it for the quiet man') Duncan Smith is a practising Catholic who is to oversee what has been described as the most far reaching welfare reform since Beveridge instituted the welfare state.

Iain is quiet, too, about his Catholic faith, since in politics nowadays it must serve one to be so, but he clearly 'does' God. Speaking in an interview with online magazine, Faithworks, Mr Duncan Smith said...
"My Catholic background has certainly affected the way I view life and it has become integral to everything I do. It has given me a belief in things like structure, marriage, family, compassion for the poor, the importance of community - but I don’t like to wear religion on my sleeve, I prefer to have it integrated into what I do."
Of course, 'compassion for the poor' is not to be confused with the maintenance of a high cost welfare scheme that pays people to sit around and do nothing. Charity is not, fundamentally, an arm of the State, certainly not the last time I looked anyway, since the State is quite happy to see alcoholics and drug addicts to contract plurosy/pneumonia in Brighton and leave them in a loading bay near the substance misuse service and leave the manning of the soup run and the feeding and clothing of homeless men and women to a small band of men and women from the Church Militant.

It has to be said, however, that 'workfare' is fundamentally unjust. In the tradition of the Holy Church, 'welfare' is a relatively new phenomenom. The State's acceptance of responsibility for the unemployed and duty to supply the unemployed with an income at sustenance level reflects a mixture of 20th century Western Governments' sudden attack of conscience for the fate of the unemployed and fears of a potentially huge mass of revolutionary, out of work, fed up, men.

I am unsure what the Church really has to say about 'welfare', since She upholds the dignity of those unemployed while promoting the innate dignity of work and vocation, work being the ideal. The Church, I think, sees unemployment as a scourge of society, a matter over which the Pope himself prays and grieves. It has to be said, however, that once men and women move out of unemployment and into work, the Church has a great deal to say. The crux of the Church's teaching is to be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Listed in the Catechism are some sins crying out to Heaven for vengeance. The one which is possibly relevant here (in a land in which at least two of them are well known and defended by Government) is this one:
  • Defrauding the workingman of his wages.
In other words, if a company of business or perhaps even a charity were to pay someone the same rate at which they were being paid as an unemployed person, it would amount to around £1.87 an hour for their labour. Whatever you think about how realistic or effective it is, the minimum wage in the United Kingdom is on average, £5.93.

The argument is, of course, that enforced 'workfare' for those who struggle to find work, at a time of deep recession, would increase the culture of working among the 'workshy' or those who have not lived in a culture of work. This may or may not be the case and it is difficult to generalise since the State is dealing not with people en masse, but with many various individuals.

However, transforming a sector of the population from being 'workless' or 'workshy' into a pool of workers who labour for just £1.87 an hour is, with little doubt, enshrining into human law yet another sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance, along with the other two or perhaps three. Yes, this is true, even if it is just for one month and even if this employment leads to better work and a better wage in the future, since the desired ends cannot justify the means employed.

Employers in the modern age are no more scrupulous in the 21st century than they ever have been and forcing a sector of the population to work for them for less than peanuts is not only unjust and sinful, but amounts to a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and, ironically enough, a Catholic is leading the changes. Workfare, even compulsory workfare is not a bad idea. I'd love someone to give me a full-time job. I've got an interview on Tuesday to do 'basic' care for elderly. The bad idea is employing those hired by workfare schemes at a rate that does not reflect either that recognised by the State as a minimum for an employee or even the effort of the labourer hired. What say you?


sanabituranima said…
Have you read "The Servile State"?
terry said…
Obviously Mr Duncan Smith has not yet got round to reading Caritas in Veritate especially paragraphs 25 and 63
roman radiator said…
Think you need a clearer account of what it means to defraud a labourer of the wages due them. It's generally been understood as keeping back their wages, not failure to pay them a state-determined "minimum wage" (the merits of which are debated by economists). In any case, when considering whether or not the amount being paid constitutes a just wage, one has to bear in mind that the work opportunities are being provided by the same state which will have been providing them with benefits for months (and in some cases, years).

I fail to see how paragraphs 25 and 63 of Caritas in Veritate are incompatible with IDS' plans.
As soon as you start working, whether it be for the 'public sector' or the private sector, you are worthy of the labour for which you are hired.
If the job opportunity is there then it is a job. If it is a job, it is a paid job.

There is simply no excuse for not paying the employee the amount due to him.

The very policy contradicts itself by the outcome.