Writing to social movements, including organised groups of casual labourers, Pope Francis said the Covid-19 pandemic should give rise to consideration of ‘a universal basic wage’ to guarantee people have the minimum they need to live and support their families.
‘Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time,’ Pope Francis wrote in an Easter message.
The letter, dated 12th April, was sent to organisations that have participated in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which the pope has hosted twice at the Vatican and attended in Bolivia in 2015.
‘The ills that afflict everyone hit you twice as hard,’ the pope wrote. ‘Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you.’
Government-ordered lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus have meant that many casual labourers have no work and, therefore, no income.
‘This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out,’ the pope said. ‘It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.’
Pope Francis did not say whether he meant the idea as a permanent policy or simply as a temporary response to the poverty and unemployment caused by the pandemic and a means of keeping national economies growing. Many wealthier countries have promised to cover part of the salaries of those not working during the pandemic or to issue ‘stimulus’ checks to their citizens.
Picture: A worker wearing a protective face mask and gloves cleans the floor at Chit Lom train station in Bangkok on 13th April 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. Writing to social movements, including organised groups of casual labourers, Pope Francis said the Covid-19 pandemic should give rise to consideration of ‘a universal basic wage’ to guarantee people have the minimum they need to live and support their families. (CNS photo/Jorge Silva, Reuters).