The living wage is a concept central to the Catholic Social Teaching tradition beginning with the foundational document, Rerum Novarum, a papal encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, issued in 1891, to combat the excesses of both laissez-faire capitalism on the one hand and communism on the other. Pope Leo first described a living wage in such terms as could be generalized for application in nations throughout the world. Rerum Novarum touched off legislative reform movements throughout the world eliminating child labor, reducing the work week, and establishing minimum wages.

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