The following are excerpts from the official English-language text of Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Laborem Exercens" (On Human Work):
We are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the encyclical Rerum Novarum on the eve of new developments in technological, economic and political conditions which, according to many experts, will influence the world of work and production no less than the Industrial Revolution of the last century.
There are many factors of a general nature: the widespread introduction of automation into many spheres of production, the increase in the cost of energy and raw materials, the growing realization that the heritage of nature is limited and that it is being intolerably polluted, and the emergence on the political scene of peoples who, after centuries of subjection, are demanding their rightful place among the nations and in international decision-making.
These new conditions and demands will require a reordering and adjustment of the structures of the modern economy and of the distribution of work.
Unfortunately, for millions of skilled workers these changes may perhaps mean unemployment, at least for a time, or the need for retraining. They will very probably involve a reduction or a less rapid increase in material well-being for the more developed countries. But they can also bring relief and hope to the millions who today live in conditions of shameful and unworthy poverty.
For this reason, there must be continued study of the subject of work and of the subject's living conditions. In order to achieve social justice in the various parts of the world, in the various countries, and in the relationships between them, there is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers.
This solidarity must be present whenever it is called for by the social degrading of the subject of work, by exploitation of the workers, and by the growing areas of poverty and even hunger.
The Church is firmly committed to this cause, for she considers it her mission, her service, a proof of her fidelity to Christ, so that she can truly be the "Church of the poor."
The many proposals put forward by experts in Catholic social teaching and by the highest magisterium of the Church take on special significance; proposals for joint ownership of the means of work, sharing by the workers in the management and-or profits of businesses, so-called shareholding by labor, etc.
Whether these various proposals can or cannot be applied concretely, it is clear that recognition of the proper position of labor and the worker in the production process demands various adaptations in the sphere of the right to ownership of the means of production.
This is so not only in view of older situations but also, first and foremost, in view of the whole of the situation and the problems in the second half of the present century with regard to the so-called Third World and the various new independent countries that have arisen, especially in Africa but elsewhere as well, in place of the colonial territories of the past.
Thus, merely converting the means of production into state property in the collectivist system is by no means equivalent to "socializing" that property.
We can speak of socializing only when the subject character of society is ensured, that is to say, when on the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench at which he is working with everyone else.
A way toward that goal could be found by associating labor with the ownership of capital, as far as possible, and by producing a wide range of intermediate bodies with economic, social and cultural purposes; they would be bodies enjoying real autonomy with regard to the public powers, pursuing their specific aims in honest collaboration with each other and in subordination to the demands of the common good, and they would be living communities both in form and in substance, in the sense that the members of each body would be looked upon and treated as persons and encouraged to take an active part in the life of the body.
Women and Families
Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future.
Such remuneration can be given either through what is called a family wage -- that is, a single salary given to the head of the family for his work, sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home -- or through other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families. These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives.
Experience confirms that there must be a social reevaluation of the mother's role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons.
It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother -- without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women -- to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age.
Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother.
It is a fact that in many societies women work in nearly every sector of life. But it is fitting that they should be able to fulfill their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack of respect for their family aspirations and for their specific role in contributing, together with men, to the good of society.
The highly industrialized countries, and even more the businesses that direct on a large scale the means of industrial production (the companies referred to as multinational or transnational), fix the highest possible prices for their products, while trying at the same time to fix the lowest possible prices for raw materials or semi-manufactured goods.
This is one of the causes of an ever-increasing disproportion between national incomes. The gap between most of the richest countries and the poorest ones is not diminishing or being stabilized but is increasing more and more, to the detriment, obviously, of the poor countries.
The obligation to provide unemployment benefits, that is to say, the duty to make suitable grants indispensable for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families, is a duty springing from the fundamental principle of moral order in this sphere, namely the principle of the common use of goods or, to put it in another and still simpler way, the right to life and subsistence.
The expenses involved in health care, especially in the case of accidents at work, demand that medical assistance should be easily available for workers, and that as far as possible it should be cheap or even free of charge.
Since disabled people are subjects with all their rights, they should be helped to participate in the life of society in all its aspects and at all the levels accessible to their capacities.
Public authorities, associations and intermediate groups, business enterprises and the disabled themselves should pool their ideas and resources so . . . disabled people may be offered work according to their capabilities, for this is demanded by their dignity as persons and as subjects of work.
Man has the right to leave his native land for various motives -- and also the right to return -- in order to seek better conditions of life in another country.
The most important thing is that the person working away from his native land, whether as a permanent emigrant or as a seasonal worker, should not be placed at a disadvantage in comparison with the other workers in that society in the matter of working rights.
In the light of the fact that, in the final analysis, labor and capital are indispensable components of the process of production in any social system -- it is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
However, the role of unions is not to "play politics" in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them.
Furthermore, it must never be forgotten that, when essential community services are in question, they must in every case be ensured, if necessary, by means of appropriate legislation.
Abuse of the strike weapon can lead to the paralysis of the whole socio-economic life, and this is contrary to the requirements of the common good of society, which also corresponds to the properly understood nature of work itself.