Friday, August 31, 2007

Ethical wages and the Catholic Church in Chile (II)

For better or worse, the Catholic Church in Latin America, has a long tradition of involvement on social issues ,since it started to modernize its beliefs concerning ethics, philosophy, politics and economics in the late XIX century . The Pope Leon XIII, wrote in 1891 the “Rerum Novarum” letter; which emphasizes the concept of “fair wages”, private property and labour rights. Ninety years later , the Pope John Paul II wrote Laborem Excercens, somehow as a follow up of the “Rerum Novarum”, but with a different approach to the meaning of work .In this modern approach, work means to be participant of the wealth creation process, rather than a kind of punish ; in fact capital is seen as the result of previous accumulative work, it follows that both factors are not against one another ,but they are complements instead .However, John Paul II made clear that individuals are more important than capital ,and improve Human dignity should be the main focus of the Church.
Some critics of Church involvement in daily life affairs , might argue that ethical wages it is a matter for politician and firms. Besides ,they would like to listen the Church ´s critics focused on different issues such as corruption practices, environment and a stronger approach on moral issues such as the involution in marriage institution. On the other hand, there are sceptics who believes that this new focus on ethical wages , will end up in social unrest .
The fact of the matter ,is that more people is starting to feel that their basic needs of education, health, and working conditions are well behind their expectations, very much so when it comes to share the benefit of growth.. Chile ,is still among those countries with highly unequal income distribution .Therefore, the real issue is not the Church involvement on the ethical discussion about wages and incomes, but its scope and lasting impact on current social –productive status, with a lot of small and medium size firms, which struggle to survive competition.-
Keeping those issues in mind , The President Bachelet invited 45 experts to participate as members of a National Commission to discuss the issue from the social justice point of view , which is expected to present its conclusions on March 2008.. What are the expectations for this working group?. All of them are highly qualified ,and they should be able to put forward concrete proposals to move ahead on this matter. Taking into account that this kind of initiatives has been set on the table before (In the mid seventies, it was called the Social and Economic Council), it is not he first time there is a serious attempt to make corrections on wages inequality .Part of the legacy of those first attempts ,it was to settled down the foundation for the national labour- firm accord at the beginning of the nineties .This time the goal is more ambitious , because it deals with society as a whole and its ethics standards .(The commission did not include labour and firm delegates) So there are two probably outcomes :Some guidelines to establish a national labour -firms relations policies, along with some guidelines to reinforce new instruments and additional resources for supporting social programs like food, education, health care, services subsidies (water, and electricity consumption) and transportation .-
Beyond the intention of doing something about it, it is important to consider into the equation, that the current model of public management for social programs available in most of Latin America ,is outdated with the current requirements .This means that any real effect on social and ethic standards, also should take into consideration the quality of the model designed to apply those recommendations and new policies. After all , poverty and inequality in Latin America stilll exist because it is in the State ´s interest, to have “customers” claiming for State help.

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