Work, unemployment and the human person

Ann Marie Mealey & Philip Bee

The 1980s encyclical Laborem exercens provides a valuable framework for the many?political, ethical and theological considerations surrounding work. Ann Marie Mealey lectures in moral theology and ethics at Leeds Trinity University, and Philip Bee is a Methodist minister (chairman of the Churches Regional Commission for Yorkshire and the Humber).

In the early 20th century, high unemployment came to be seen as one of the most damaging features of capitalist economies. For 30 years after 1945, maintaining full employment was a primary priority of UK economic policy and unemployment was kept astonishingly low. From the 1970s, inflation was seen as a greater threat, full employment lost its overriding importance and unemployment soared to three million in the early 1980s. The Church was, at that time, at the forefront of drawing attention to the human loss and hopelessness caused by unemployment. More recently the Government?s primary attention has been given to reducing national debt in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and restoring economic growth.

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