Dale West STAFF AUGUST 2012 070JUST as it was announced last Thursday that South Australia’s unemployment rate had continued a long-hoped for decline, workers commuting on South Road at Bedford Park were stuck in a gridlock.

Yet another burst water-main was wreaking havoc with traffic in both directions, at what cost to productivity?

Our underground pipe system is leaking at the same rate as the state’s long-term unemployment problem is eroding confidence.

So why isn’t the State investing in core infrastructure to secure our failing water supply channels, stimulate the labour market and create new jobs? A metaphor? Maybe.

Despite our unemployment rate falling by 0.2 per cent to 7.5 per cent in October, SA recorded a 5300 job decline of people in full-time employment.

This week alone, about 450 jobs will be lost with the closure of Alinta Energy’s coal mine in Leigh Creek and associated power stations in Port Augusta. Replaced by?

In his 1981 encyclical, Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II wrote of the need to act against unemployment in order to avert individual and social disaster.

He spoke of the role of all agents of economic policy, principally the state, as being the `indirect employer’ and having the responsibility to address imbalances in the distribution of wealth, employment and social welfare.

It is, he said, through planning with regard to different types of work, by which the economic and cultural life of society is shaped.

Community and social welfare organisations can be committed to restoring the pluck of our most disadvantaged but, when it comes to economies, it’s the government that pulls the lever.

This takes courage in the context of short political cycles which are driven as much by the result at the next election as the long-term good of the people deciding a party’s fate.

If the State Government invested in fixing our entire underground water supply system, wouldn’t it be spending to save, not just on water, but on rush-hour productivity and community fortitude?

Work is the key if we are to look at stimulating confidence from the point of view of man’s good. It’s not about a Government’s ability to boast at the polls it cut the jobless rate, it’s about the people.

Do we undervalue work and the rights that flow from it? In particular, the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.

Work is significant on many levels beyond a weekly wage. Work builds skills, creates structure and purpose in life, allows us to educate our children and achieve personal fulfilment.

Where work is devalued or denied, the negative consequences are obvious, no more so than in hospital paediatric intensive care units and women’s domestic violence shelters.

The economy exists for the human person, not the other way round.

Dale West is Director of Centacare Catholic Family Services. Follow him on Twitter @DPWestCentacare.