human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Caritas Spain acts towards an economy of solidarity

The Church in Caritas in Veritate speaks to us of the importance and need for decent work for all people. A job must allow workers to participate in their community, must not be discriminatory and must have a remuneration that allows for a dignified life for the whole family. Work is a fundamental right and it must be a source of well-being for the person.

However, our current socioeconomic system is focused on earning profit rather than personal wellbeing and socioeconomic inclusion. Reality shows that this model only benefits a minority. Its consequences are an increase in poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and an inability to respond to people’s needs regarding employment.

Ecosol, one of Caritas Spain’s social enterprises, introduced courier services during Covid.

In August 2020, the unemployment rate in the euro zone was 8.1%, 1.4 million more than in August 2019. According to 2019 data, 9.5% of European workers were at risk of poverty. Other realities that people in vulnerability face are lack of qualifications to access the labor market, jobs that don’t allow flexibility, undesired part-time contracts, short-term contracts, and undeclared work without contract nor labour rights. These are jobs that create exclusion instead of inclusion.

In this model, people are just one more resource in the system at the service of maximum benefit. This dynamic generates precarious employment and leaves out those people who do not fit into competitive market conditions. Consequently, as we have seen, large sections of the population are expelled from the labour market, making it difficult to access employment in decent conditions.

Cáritas Spain opts for another economic model: the solidarity economy. The solidarity economy supports the principles and values ​​of a human and environmentally-centred economy. It is an integral alternative to the current economic model that put profit at the center of the economic system, giving the markets an instrumental role.

Caritas Spain works towards the solidarity economy with the promotion of inclusive labour markets and social economy enterprises.

Inclusive labour markets aim to create a labour environment where everyone of working age can participate in paid work, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged people. This means promoting tools and measures such as: decent work conditions; adequate wages; addressing undeclared work; addressing unemployment with active employment policies; employment counseling; individual pathways back to work; retraining and lifelong learning and anti-discrimination policies, which enhance the participation of disadvantaged groups in the labour market.

Social economy enterprises can include a range of business activities, but whose objective is common to all: social impact and the creation of social employment, where the person is at the centre and where social purpose takes precedence.

Caritas Spain’s social economy enterprises offer opportunities for decent employment, training and support for excluded people. We have 73 social economy initiatives that have developed 135 business activities (waste recycling, textiles, hospitality, organic farming, cleaning and others), in order to generate employment for those people who have not had the same opportunities.

Unfortunately, many of Caritas Spain’s social economy enterprises have been greatly affected by COVID-19, losing a big part of their income and clients. However, many have adapted their line of business to

To adapt to people needs in Covid times, Ecosol introduced the production of face masks. Ecosol is run by Caritas Girona.

new needs and a new reality. One example is Ecosol, a social enterprise ran by Caritas Girona, which during the pandemic introduced new business activities such as last-mile courier extension, the manufacture of COVID masks and protective equipment as well as the disinfection of residences, and centers. These activities prevented layoffs and allowed the company to keep running.

Caritas Spain, through its social economy enterprises, wants to be a testimony that another economic model is possible, in which the rights of people and caring for the environment are compatible with economic sustainability.