Hong Kong Christians: Celebrating May 2, 'Labour Sunday'
by Paul Wang

Catholics and Protestants want to sensitize the population and the Churches to the degraded work situation. The Jewish Sabbath (rest, freeing of slaves, community) as a remedy. 40-45% of the local population suffers from mental illness related to economic insecurity and poverty. Young people are the poorest.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Hong Kong Christians, Protestants and Catholics, have decided this year to celebrate "Labour Sunday", on the Sunday closest to 1 May, when Labour Day is celebrated all over the world.

The Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee and the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs want to make the day a moment in which to focus attention on working conditions in the territory, degraded due to Covid and the past year of democracy demonstrations, violence and government inaction.

The two organizations also produced an "ecumenical declaration" and a theological reflection. The idea is that to improve the scourges of job insecurity, guarantee a decent wage, recognize Covid-19 as a disease that affects employment, it is necessary to assimilate the Jewish Sabbath mentality, as narrated in the tradition of Isaiah 58 , where in addition to the rest of work, the urgent need to free slaves and prisoners, sharing life as a community, is emphasized.

The theological reflection also points to elements of concern. For example, that 40-45% of the local population suffers from mental illness at various levels and that these problems are linked to economic insecurity and poverty.

Between 2018 and 2019, the poverty rate grew by 15.8%, affecting at least 1.1 million people. Poverty spreads among young people due to unemployment. “In 2019 - the text states - the unemployment rate of 18-29 year olds was 10.7%; for 25-29 year olds it was 14.7, but the overall unemployment rate was 2.9.

Youth unemployment is much more serious than general unemployment in Hong Kong. 46.1% of the 25-29 age group are working poor. Of these, more than half (50.4%) have university degrees and three quarters (75.5%) have full-time jobs. But even if they have work, there is no guarantee for them that they will be able to escape from poverty ".

Another worrying fact is that during the period of democracy demonstrations, 15% of Hong Kong's youth suffered from depression. This mental fragility has increased with the situation created by the pandemic. This in fact creates insecurity at work; stress due to changes in the organization; loneliness and isolation from working from home; lack of a work/life balance.

To counter this the image of the Sabbath, the sabbatical year, the Day of Atonement suggests not only rest, but also liberation even from "political and economic" slavery, transforming the Sabbath into a culture of sharing and solidarity.

The two Christian organizations also suggest some steps to the government: subsidies for the unemployed, equal to 80% of wages for at least three months; set a minimum wage in step with inflation, which allows a minimum, but dignified life; treat Covid as an occupational disease, given that there are people who work in contact with the public and risk becoming infected and ill.

The day will also have moments of prayer, following an ecumenical prayer guide. " We urge the Hong Kong public and the Church to improve the labour rights and pray for the challenging labour situation in Hong Kong."