Pastoral Letter on
We are amongst the most overworked
....Two new studies by the Relationships Australia Forum1 and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)2 show that after 15 years of economic prosperity, many Australians are disappointed with the results and feel overworked, stressed-out and unhappy. .... We are among the most overworked nations in the world, with a very high rating among 18 developed nations on key indicators of work intensification. With 22% of the workforce doing at least 50 hours each week, Australia runs second only to Japan in terms of average working hours. Almost a third of the labour force regularly works on weekends, making Australia second only to Italy. It is revealing that around two million Australians work on Sundays. Around 27% of Australian workers are in casual employment...often characterised by irregular hours and, as a result, an enforced dysfunctional family life.
The biblical notion of Sabbath
... Work can be an expression of our God-given talents, the means for forming and supporting families and an opportunity for solidarity and contributing to the common good. It is an important means – not an end in itself. This coincides with what Australians say they most aspire to: the welfare of spouses and families, their health and wellbeing, strong friendships, community life and their faith.6 Can we reawaken the biblical notion of the Sabbath? It is a time of liberation from the necessity of work, for rest and giving thanks to God. Not limited to Sunday, it is about taking time to find stability in family life, for worship and for recreation. Importantly, Sabbath is also a refuge: ‘a barrier against becoming slaves to work, whether voluntarily or by force, and against every kind of exploitation, hidden or evident.’7 Time together is every family’s right. The Vatican has called on the international community to ensure working parents, both men and women, are ‘assisted, if necessary by law, to bring their own unique and irreplaceable contribution to the upbringing of their children, to the evident benefit of the whole society … [that] families receive adequate and fair wages that are sufficient to meet ordinary family needs’.8 ...the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, warned of labour market changes depriving young people of their ‘ability to not only dream and build up a project for the future, but even to commit themselves to matrimony and start a family.’9
On this Feast of St Joseph the Worker, we are invited to consider the ways in which we can establish the proper place for work, and the necessary pay and conditions, so that family life is well supported now and for future generations.
Most Rev Christopher Saunders
Bishop of Broome
Chairman, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
1. Relationships Forum Australia, 2007, An Unexpected Tragedy – Evidence for the connection between working patterns and family breakdown in Australia, RFA Inc, Sydney.
2. HREOC, 2007, It’s About Time: women, men, work and family, HREOC Sex and Age Discrimination Unit, Sydney.
6. Survey cited in Relationships Forum Australia, 2007, p.367. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, n.258. See also nn. 259f, 280, 284.
8. Statement of the Apostolic Nuncio, H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, to the U.N. Economic and Social Council 45th Session of the Commission for Social Development, New York, February 2007.
9. Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the 9th International Youth Forum, 28 March 2007.