Pope Francis has highlighted the struggles that workers face in a globalised economy with a visit to a troubled steel factory in Genoa, where he stressed how jobs give people a sense of human dignity and denounced those who exploit workers.
The visit put a focus on the plight of those whose lives have been made precarious by years of economic crisis, including in Italy where a high jobless rate, especially among young adults, has driven many to leave the country.
Speaking to 3,500 industrial workers, many in uniforms or hard hats, Francis distinguished what he called the “real entrepreneur”, a person who “shares the labours of workers and shares the joys of work” to create something together, from speculators who are not bothered when they fire workers in search of profits.
“One sickness of the economy is the gradual transformation of entrepreneurs into speculators,” the Pontiff said. “The speculator doesn’t love his business, doesn’t love the workers, but only sees the business and workers as the means to make profit.”
He decried a political system that “sometimes seems to encourage” speculators, “not those who invest and believe in work”.
Francis also denounced those who claim that workers do their jobs only for the money, saying that “denies the dignity of work”.
It is by working that “our humanity flourishes”, he argued.
He listened to workers express their fears, including about technological transformations that threaten to leave many more without work in the future. He told them people must not resign themselves to “an ideology taking root everywhere that imagines a world where only half or maybe two thirds of the workers will work and the others will be maintained by a social check.”
“Without work for everyone, there will not be dignity for everyone,” Francis said.
Francis, an Argentine whose parents left Italy in the early 20th century, also referred to his personal feelings aroused by visiting the port city, the departure point in the past for Italians seeking new lives in North and South America.
“It’s the first time I come to Genoa. And being so close to the port reminds me of where my father departed from,” he said. “This gives me a great emotion.”
The Pontiff’s day also included lunch with homeless people, refugees and prisoners and a Mass with a congregation estimated at 80,000 people.