1. The content of Article 4 of the Constitution
Among the “fundamental principles”, contained in the first twelve articles of the Constitution, the Labour one stands out, which permeates the Constitutional Charter since its inception.
“Italy is a democratic Republic founded on work reads Article 1,elevating work and democracy to founding values of the new state model crystallized in the Constitution.
“The Republic protects work in all its forms and applications “,Article 35still states, but it is Article 4 of the Fundamental Charter that sets out the principle of worker in more detail.
The norm reads: “The Republic recognizes the right to work for all citizens and promotes the conditions that make this right effective. Every citizen has the duty to carry out, according to his possibilities and his choice, an activity or a function that contributes to the material or spiritual progress of society.”
2. Article 4 of the Constitution: the explanation
The norm is divided into two distinct paragraphs, apparently opposed but in reality complementary the first identifies work as a right that the Republic recognizes to all citizens, promoting the conditions that make it effective.
The second paragraph, on the other hand, contemplates work as a duty that every citizen is called to fulfil, carrying out an activity or function that contributes to the material or spiritual progress of society, according to his own possibilities and inclinations.
The key between the two paragraphs is the reference not to the State but to the Republican expression used intentionally and also present in other articles of the Constitution (for example Article 9), in order to jointly indicate collectivity and public authorities, both called to cooperate actively for the promotion and pursuit of the objective under consideration.
2.1. The choice of work
From the reading of the norm also emerges a further profile: not only the dual connotation of work as a right and duty, but also the faculty for each citizen to choose the occupation that he considers most suited to his inclinations and possibilities.
An observation that may seem trivial and in some ways utopian,especially at the present time when a saturated labor market often leads to adapt to occupations other than those desired or not at all responsive to one’s professional path.
It is however admirable the intent of the Constituents to want to enhance the personalistic aspect of work performance, emphasizing its importance for the personal growth of the individual and the community.
The aforementioned interpretation could also lend itself to legitimizing the elimination of too rigid access barriers, provided for example for certain professions, obviously without prejudice to the possession of the requisites and skills necessary to exercise them.
2.2. Work as a means of affirming personality
In the idea of the Constituents, work is therefore not only a tool through which to exploit one’s abilities and sustain oneself,but also a means of active participation in the realization of the community.
As Costantino Mortati observed”in the Italian Constitution, the work placed at the base of the Republic, is not an end in itself or a mere instrument of gain, but a means of affirming the personality of the individual, a guarantee of the development of human capacities and their use.”
In fact, work ensures that human dignity that permeates the entire fundamental Charter (see for example Articles 2, 3, 27, 32and 36 of the Constitution),confirming itself as the basic principle of the republican order.
3. What does it mean that work is a right? The perplexities of the Constituents
As anticipated, the first paragraph of art. Amendment No 4 enshrines the recognition of the right to work for all citizens and thecommitment of the Republic to promote the conditions for making it effective.
The inclusion of the provision among the fundamental principles is not accidental, just as the reference to the Republicis not, rather than to the State, which as has been said underlines the involvement of the entire community (citizens and public authorities) in the pursuit of the indicated end.
The genesis of the norm, in particular of this first paragraph, was not, however, painless or free from perplexity. The Constituents wondered for a long time how to decline the recognition of the right to work and even on the advisability of inserting such a provision in the Constitution.
The fear was in fact to give constitutional cover to a right that the Republic, while committing itself to promote and recognize, would have difficulty in guaranteeing in a universal way.
A fear that emerges well from the words of Guido Cortese,a member of the Third Subcommittee of the Constituent Assembly, who wondered if the right to work should be understood as the right to turn to the State to ask for an occupation: a perfect right of the individual, therefore, equipped with legal protection if it was injured or remained unictuable.
This reflection was joined by others.
In fact, it was observed that by understanding the right to work as the perfect right,the State would become the source of this right, while it is true that the right to work belongs to man independently of the State.
Finally, it was added that, although it was commendable and desirable that the Republic would be able to guarantee a level of full and satisfactory employment for all, to do this the State would have to plan and direct the entire production chain, assigning to each one a job, no matter if not suited to his aspirations or actual abilities. “Oneshould attempt, that is, an experiment in Bolshevization that would lead to dictatorship and exacerbate economic collapse.” (Courteous).