Justice Sunday 2019 - Pastoral Letter
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
Celebrating the Dignity of Work
Your Eminence/Grace/Excellency/Father/Sister/Brother in Jesus Christ,
Greetings of Peace from the CBCI Office for Justice Peace and Development!
Introduction: The Reality of Work Today
Human beings are truly the centre of development. In 1990, when the First Human Development Report was published, the United Nations insisted that dignity and a decent life be considered as essential aspects of human development. However, the scenario even today is not bright. The Human Development Report 2016 stated that worldwide “73.3 million young people are out of work, and 40 percent of young people in the global labour force are either unemployed or poorly paid. Young people are three times more likely than adults to be out of work. Nearly 156 million young people in emerging and developing countries are working poor - working but living in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day or in moderate poverty on $1.90–$3.10 a day. In the next 15 years, young people worldwide will need 600 million jobs. Millennials - people ages 18 to 34 in 2015 - are expected to work longer hours (nearly a quarter work more than 50 hours a week). The Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy estimates that the country’s unemployment rate in December 2018 reached 7.38 percent. By 2022, one in 10 workers in India would have to be employed in jobs that do not even exist today.
Poor Working Conditions leads to Loss of Human Dignity
A recently released report carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO), under the Ministry of Statistics, gives a sad picture of the condition of workers in India, namely, 71% of workers do not have any written job contract, 54% do not get paid leave and over 57% in rural areas and nearly 80% in urban areas work much beyond the eight-hour work day (48-hour-week). Further, 71% of the workers did not have any written contract or appointment letter. Working conditions of many categories of people in India is pathetic. Recently, Indian doctors staged a nationwide strike over inhuman working conditions. The Indian healthcare sector is now facing the dual challenge of migration, attrition and drop-outs of nursing staff at government and private hospitals due to poor working conditions. Further, “most daily-wage labourers in the organised sector in India suffer from poor working conditions and scanty wages. They are inordinately prone to occupational hazards, especially those working in construction, mining or chemical factories. Their high exposure to risks and low incomes warrant special social-protection systems, not negligence”. In the unorganized sector, the scenario is worse. At a rally in London, Nelson Mandela remarked: “Overcoming poverty is not
a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life”.
The ILO India Wage Report calls for sustainable wage policies that promote decent work and inclusive growth, as only such course of action can contribute to social justice, balanced economic growth and also offer protection to the workers in their employment relationship. It noted that significant source of wage inequality can be found in exclusion or discrimination against some categories of workers, including women, ethnic minorities or castes. To reduce wage gaps, national legislation must provide for the right to equal remuneration for work of equal value and effective access to justice to claim this right.
The third edition of India Responsible Business Index (IRBI) 2017 noted that there is no apparent improvement in the way companies treat their employees despite incorporating progressive policies for worker welfare, safety and rights, and hence a lot remains to be done when it comes to actual implementation of policy commitments.
Some Scriptural Texts that instruct us on the Dignity of Work
Genesis 2:2-3 : "On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and rested on the seventh day from the work that he had done".
Genesis 2:15 : "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it".
Deuteronomy 5:13-15: "Six says you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work".
Deuteronomy 14:28-29: "...the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake". Deuteronomy 24:14-15: "You shall not withhold any wages of poor and needy labourers "
Sirach 34:26-27: "To take away a neighbour's living is to commit murder".
Isaiah 58:3-7 :To observe religious practices, but oppress one's workers is false worship.
Jeremiah 22:13: "Woe to him ...who makes his neighbours work for nothing and does not give them their wages". Matthew 20:1-16: All workers should be paid a just wage.
Mark 2:27: The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.
Luke 3:10-14: Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages. In other words, practice integrity in your work.
James 5:1-6 : Those who become rich by fraudulently exploiting their workers have sinned against God.
The Fathers of the Church
"They do not consider work as an “opus servile” — although the culture of their day maintained precisely that such was the case — but always as an “opus humanum”, and they tend to hold all its various expressions in honour. By means of work, man governs the world with God; together with God he is its lord and accomplishes good things for himself and for others. Idleness is harmful to man's being, whereas activity is good for his body and soul. Christians are called to work not only to provide themselves with bread, but also in acceptance of their poorer neighbours, to whom the Lord has commanded them to give food, drink, clothing, welcome, care and companionship (cf. Mt 25:35-36). Every worker, Saint Ambrose contends, is the hand of Christ that continues to create and to do good".
The Dignity of Work in Catholic Social Teaching
"The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative".
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC) on Dignity of Work
In his preaching, Jesus teaches that we should appreciate work. He himself, having “become like us in all things, devoted most of the years of his life on earth to manual work at the carpenter's bench” (CSDC no. 259). In his preaching, Jesus teaches us not to be enslaved by work. Before all else, we must be concerned about our soul; gaining the whole world is not the purpose of one's life (cf. Mk 8:36) (CSDC no. 260). Work represents a fundamental dimension of human existence as participation not only in the act of creation but also in that of redemption (CSDC no. 263).
Let us recollect the Benedictine formula: ora et labora! The religious fact confers on human work an enlivening and redeeming spirituality. Such a connection between work and religion reflects the mysterious but real alliance, which intervenes between human action and the providential action of God” (CSDC no. 266).
Human work also has an intrinsic social dimension. A person's work, in fact, is naturally connected with that of other people. Today “more than ever, work is work with others and work for others. It is a matter of doing something for someone else”. The fruits of work offer occasions for exchange, relationship and encounter (CSDC no. 273).
The State and Civil Society has an important role in promoting the Right to Work: . Employment problems challenge the responsibility of the State, whose duty it is to promote active employment policies, that is, policies that will encourage the creation of employment opportunities within the national territory, providing the production sector with incentives to this end (CSDC no. 291).
Women, their Dignity and the Right to Work:
The feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, therefore the presence of women in the workplace must also be guaranteed. The recognition and defence of women's rights in the context of work generally depend on the organization of work, which must take into account the dignity and vocation of women, whose “true advancement ... requires that labour should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them” The persistence of many forms of discrimination is offensive to the dignity and vocation of women in the area of work. An urgent need to recognize effectively the rights of women in the workplace is seen especially under the aspects of pay, insurance and social security (CSDC no. 295).
Child labour as Violation of Human Dignity:
Child labour, in its intolerable forms, constitutes a kind of violence that is less obvious than others but it is not for this reason any less terrible. This is a violence that, beyond all political, economic and legal implications, remains essentially a moral problem. This exploitation represents a serious violation of human dignity (CSDC no. 296).
The Dignity of Workers and Respect for their Rights:
The rights of workers, like all other rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity. The Church's social Magisterium has seen fit to list some of these rights, in the hope that they will be recognized in juridical systems: the right to a just wage; the right to rest; the right “to a working environment and to manufacturing processes which are not harmful to the workers' physical health or to their moral integrity”; the right that one's personality in the workplace should be safeguarded “without suffering any affront to one's conscience or personal dignity”; the right to appropriate subsidies that are necessary for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families; the right to a pension and to insurance for old age, sickness, and in case of work-related accidents; the right to social security connected with maternity; the right to assemble and form associations. These rights are often infringed, as is confirmed by the sad fact of workers who are underpaid and without protection or adequate representation. It often happens that work conditions for men, women and children, especially in developing countries, are so inhumane that they are an offence to their dignity and compromise their health (CSDC no. 301).
Pope Francis on leading a dignified life through work
"In the reality of today's global society, it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone," no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replaces human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work" (Laudato Si, no. 127-128).
Emeritus Pope Benedict on dignity of human person and human work
The primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: "Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life" (Caritas in Veritate, no. 25). In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or "because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family." (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 63).
As the Second Vatican Council affirmed, "the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person." All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families "to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level" and to assistance in case of need arising from sickness or age. (St. Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, no. 14).
Most Rev. Gerald Almeida
Chairperson Office for Justice, Peace & Development
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
Most. Rev. Allwyn D’Silva
Most Rev. Gerald Isaac Lobo Member Bishops
Rev. Fr. Stephen Fernandes
 Subodh Verma, “Govt. Report Reveals Shocking Condition of Workers in India” in NewsClick, 12 June 2019.
 Nandita Vijay, "India facing nursing shortage due to poor working conditions", in Pharmabiz.com, Bengaluru, 13 December 2017.
 Sananda Satpathy, "Social protection to mitigate poverty: Examining the neglect of India’s informal workers" in Observer Research Foundation, 13 September 2018.
 Speeches of Nelson Mandela, London, 3 February 2005.
[1 International Labour Organization (ILO), Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India, India Wage Report: Wage Policies for Decent Work and Inclusive Growth”, New Delhi, 2018.
 ILO’s Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) represents a widely agreed standard.
 United States Catholic Bishops Conference on "The Dignity of Work and the Rights of the Workers".
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 578.
 United States Catholic Bishops Conference on "The Dignity of Work and the Rights of the Workers".