We are often told to uphold dignity of labor. But what exactly is dignity of labor? Our leaders and elders very often exhort us to uphold dignity of labor, often lamenting that our youngsters lack dignity of labor. Well, there seems to be a disconnect here. Perhaps, they are referring to hard work. Perhaps, they are actually telling us to work hard. But hard work and dignity of labor are two totally different terms. Dignity of Labor means every occupation deserves “equal respect.”
Hard work is about diligence while dignity of labor is a philosophy – that all types of jobs are respected equally, and no occupation is considered superior and none of the jobs should be discriminated against on any basis. Regardless of whether one’s occupation involves physical work or mental labor, it is held that the job deserves equal respect. Simply put, any form of work, manual or intellectual, is called labor and respecting any kind of job, manual or intellectual, is called “dignity of labor.”
Now, therefore, the duty of upholding dignity of labor is a collective responsibility while hard work is largely up to the individuals. Dignity of labor means that the neighborhood shopkeeper deserves just as much respect as the civil service officer, that we must respect the daily wage earner just as much as we respect the doctor or the engineer. As long as we discriminate between the various types of professions, we cannot be talking about dignity of labor. The farmer and the professor both deserve equal respect. That is dignity of labor.
Dignity of labor means that all occupations, whether involving intellect or physical labor, deserve equal respect and dignity. No job should be considered superior or inferior. Every job that is dutifully done with honesty and sincerity deserves appreciation. A society that doesn’t give importance to the dignity of labor cannot prosper.
A clerk works in the office. A teacher teaches students at school. A doctor practices medicine. A lawyer practices law. The work of all these professions is mainly intellectual. A farmer works in the field. A mason works at the construction site. A mechanic works in the garage. Their work requires manual labor.
When we say that the work of the farmers, masons, mechanics, etc, is as respectable as the work of the clerk, the teacher, the doctor, and the lawyer, we mean there is dignity of labor. A society that does not respect the dignity of manual labor will lag behind other progressive societies.
A society or an economy cannot prosper materially if the people are not laborious. Labor is at the source of the power of a nation. Thus, no work is less important than the other. We, as a community and as individuals, need to uphold dignity of labor by respecting all types of labor equally.
That way, our youngsters will be encouraged to work hard – with dignity.