By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY — A nation’s welfare and social service systems are a reminder that everything is connected, and everyone is interdependent on each other, especially the younger and older generations, Pope Francis said.
Society seems to have lost sight of the future, caring only about the present and little about what may happen to future generations, with people thinking: ” ‘I’ll do my part, then the others will make do.’ This won’t do,” the pope said April 3.
Instead, “a strong bond between generations is the prerequisite” for pension and social security systems to work, he said during an audience at the Vatican with management and staff of Italy’s national welfare system. The system, known by the Italian acronym INPS, covers social security benefits for retirement, old age, disabilities, illness, unemployment, family leave, on-the-job injuries or illnesses and individuals and households in need.
He encouraged them to “continue to make the right to a pension concretely possible” and cultivate a “culture of the common good, providence and sustainability.”
“Social security also reminds us that ‘everything is connected’ and that we are interdependent on each other,” he said. “A worker’s well-deserved pension, in fact, is supported not only by his or her years of work, but also by the fact that there is someone who, through their work, is effectively paying for the pension of others.”
The pope lamented the burden of huge public debt being placed on future generations and the problem of a “demographic winter” with declining birth rates and more people living longer. A person in his late 50s may well ask, “Who will pay my pension? It won’t be the dogs that people have instead of children,” the pope said.
“Therefore, I would like to make three appeals to preserve social security” so it can survive the challenges of an increasingly aging population, he said.
Pope Francis called for an end to illegal and “under the table” employment which deprives families of access to the pension system, “distorts the labor market and exposes workers to forms of exploitation and injustice.”
He called for an end to job insecurity and precarious employment, “which has an impact on young people’s life choices and as such forces them to work even when their energies fail.”
“Precariousness should be transitory, it cannot be excessively prolonged; otherwise, it ends up leading to mistrust, it promotes the postponement of life choices in the young, it delays their entry into the pension system, and it exacerbates the declining birth rate,” he added.
Finally the pope called for supporting work that promotes human dignity, that is, it is “free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive.”
Setting aside sufficient economic resources and “guaranteeing access to health care are precious assets that can hold together the different seasons of life,” he added.
“We need wise politicians, guided by the criterion of fraternity, and who know how to discern between one season and another, avoiding wasting resources when they exist and leaving future generations in grave difficulty,” the pope said.