Dignity of Work Initiative
The Dignity of Work Initiative of the Freedom & Virtue Institute is a church-based initiative that involves volunteers and employers in assisting people in getting meaningful employment. We utilize the Jobs for Life (JfL) curriculum. Jobs for Life is a global nonprofit organization that engages and equips the local Church to address the impact of joblessness through the dignity of work. By mobilizing a worldwide network of volunteers committed to applying biblically-based training and mentoring relationships, Jobs for Life helps those in need find dignity and purpose through meaningful work.
The Jobs for Life job readiness training course for adults incorporates biblical truths and stories to help men and women understand their dignity and God-given identity and gifts, develop character, and foster a supportive community that will equip them for work and life. This method, combined with soft skills training, has proven to enable unemployed and underemployed men and women to find and keep meaningful employment.
FVI’s philosophy is the economy must serve people, not the other way around. When people engage in meaningful economic activity they actualize their dignity as beings created in God’s image. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of participating in God’s creation—a way of becoming co-creators. Nothing attacks one’s dignity like a lack of work. The suffering and consequences of unemployment and underemployment are pervasive and heart-wrenching. Joblessness contributes to poverty, crime, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies, depression, divorce, and suicide – it is self-perpetuating and tears at the fabric of society.
Work is also a duty of the human person—our humanity requires participation and involvement to better our community and all have that duty. Not only is it good for the community but it is essential in the process of human fulfillment. In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment).
According to Gallup, 44.7% of Americans over age 18 worked full-time for an employer in January 2016 and another 5.6% were self-employed full-time, resulting in just over half (50.3%) of American adults working full-time last month. This full-time work rate is far more relevant to our understanding of poverty than some other employment metrics, because contrary to conventional wisdom, low work rates or no work at all (rather than low wages) explain the overwhelming majority of poverty.
Among working age adults who were poor in 2014, Census data show that, 61.7% did not work at all and another 26.6% worked less than full-time for the entire year. Only 11.7% of poor working-age adults worked full-time for the entire year in 2014. Low wages are not the primary cause of poverty; low work rates are. And if Gallup is correct, the full-time work rate may already be peaking.
The clear majority of people who work full-time all year are not in poverty. So, unless more people can find a way into the labor market through full-time work, we are unlikely to see meaningful declines in poverty soon.