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Restore dignity to human labour

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It is time to rescue workers from the clutches of greed and restore dignity to human labour, JD Lovrenciear writes. 

For the first time in centuries, the world marked Labour Day with bleak hope amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

As leaders around the world marked the day with hype about hope and appreciation for the toil and sacrifices, risks and successes of human labour, we need to reappraise the very label “Labour Day”.

The weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed the vast chasm between the dignity of labour and the ‘honour’ of 20th Century capitalism. 

Barely days into a partial or full lockdown the world over, warnings emerged of businesses going bust. Owners of companies, big and small, lamented they may end up laying off workers if they did not receive government aid. 

As the weeks progressed, many workers woke up each morning under a cloud of fear of losing their jobs or incomes. 

Whatever little relief that was hurriedly arranged to help workers get by financially was no match for the billions of funds and relief measures dished out by governments to keep industries safe from folding up.

In some countries, even the apparently “cash aid” to workers actually came from the workers’ own retirement savings in government-appointed institutions.

And in some cases, workers withdrawing their retirement savings ended up paying a processing fee or had to forego the interest earned.

Added to this assault on the dignity of human labour was the fact that governments had to plead with employers not to withhold salaries during the lockdown. 

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Meanwhile, some business owners took advantage of the Covid-19 ravages. Reports emerged of the closure of businesses that had once made profits in pre-pandemic years and decades.

As the world marked 2020 Labour Day, we need to re-examine human work. We need to ask if human labour has been deprived of dignity. 

Has the toil of all human endeavours taken second place to profits? Is the state’s safeguarding of the entrepreneurial agenda of profit-making in the name of progress warranted?

When it comes to employees’ productivity and performance, we like to use grandiose terms like human resources or human capital.

But when it comes to national economies and politics, we put human labour on the backburner. Bringing financial relief to keep industries from closing down seems to be priority in this global crisis.

Perhaps thinkers with dignity and honour will step forward to help reshape the landscape of human labour.

On this 2020 Labour Day, we should reflect on the dignity of human labour and free it from the exploitation of capitalist greed.

A nation’s economy and progress built with the bricks and mortar of industrial development, where human labour is second to profit-making robs civilisation of its very pillars, ie human labour with dignity.

It is time to return dignity and honour to human toil and laborious effort so that we can keep building civilisation in a way that gives real meaning to our human existence.

The world has to correct the runaway wagon of “economic success” and rethink how we regard the survival of businesses as superior to the sweat and toil of human capability, ie labour. Only then can human progress grow with dignity and honour. 

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