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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

The Facts as to Wages

The Facts as to Wages.

Q. It is constantly asserted that one positive effect of the (protective) tariff policy of the United States has been to secure high wages to the labourer in that country. Is this true?

A. No; and the proof is, that wages are the highest in the United States—absolutely and in comparison with the old world rates—in those industries which do not have, or confessedly do not need, protection.

Q. What are some illustrations of this?

A. The Report of Bureau of Labour Statistics of Massachusetts, for 1884, shows that the rates of wages in the industry of food preparations—all of which we export—are 250 per cent, higher in that State that in Great Britain. In brick-making, which is a wholly domestic industry, American wages are double those of the British. In the building trades, where foreign competition is impossible, unless houses are to be imported whole, American wages are again nearly double those of the foreigner. In the manufacture of boots and shoes they are more than double; yet in no department of manufacture has the superior genius of American mechanics been more triumphant. On the other hand, in metals and metal goods, and in carpeting, all highly protected industries, there is little of advantage to the American labourer; while in cotton manufactures wages are shown to have been actually lower in some departments in Massachusetts than in England.

Q. Do labourers work longer hours in this country than in England?

A The Massachusetts Labour Report for 1884 shows that the average number of working days in a year is 309 in Massachusetts and 305 in Great Britain; and the number of hours per week 60.17 in Massachusetts, and 53.5 in Great Britain—so the longer hours prevail by 12 per cent, in Massachusetts.

Q. Have wages advanced during recent years more rapidly in great Britain than in Massachusetts?

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A. Yes. The same Massachusetts Report shows, that while wages advanced in England from 1872 to 1883, an average of nearly 10 per cent., they fell back during the same period in Massachusetts to the extent of 5.41 per cent.; a fact which completely refutes the popular theory about the influence of protection in maintaining and increasing the rates of wages.

Q. Are wages higher in America than in Europe?

A. Wages are higher in America than in Europe; they are higher in England than in France and Germany; they are higher in Canada than in England.

Q. Why are wages higher in this country than in Europe if the tariff has not occasioned such a result?

A. Wages are higher in this country, because owing to our great natural advantages, labour, intelligently applied, will here yield a greater or better result than in old and densely-populated countries. It has always been so, ever since the first settlements within our territory, and that is the main cause of the tide of immigration that for the last two hundred years has flowed hitherward. Hamilton, in his celebrated report on manufactures, made before any tariff on the imports of foreign merchandise into the United States was enacted, notices the fact that wages for similar employments were as a rule higher in this country than in Europe; but he considered this as no real obstacle in the way of our successful establishment of domestic manufactures, for he says that the manufacturers "can afford to pay them."

Q. Are wages also higher in Australia and the Argentine States of South America than in Great Britain?

A. Yes; and they are even higher in many departments of industry than in the United States.

Q. Assuming 300 working days in the year, what, according to the census of 1880, were the average daily wages paid in the leading industries of the United States?

A. In the manufacture of cotton 3s. 4d. per day; silk and and silk goods 4s. od.; wool 4s. 2d.; iron and steel 5s. 4d.; iron ore mining 4s. 2d.

Q. What, according to the census of 1880, are the relations which the sums paid for labour in the great industries of this country sustain to the total value of the finished products of such industries?

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A. In manufactures of wool the wages paid represent on an average 16 per cent, of the value of the finished product; in iron and steel 21 per cent., in cotton 22 per cent., and in silk 37 per cent.

Q. If the prices of foreign fabrics of cotton and wool and of foreign iron and steel when landed in the United States are increased by reason of freights, commissions, insurance, and inland transportation, to the extent of only 5 percent., how much additional, by reason of this natural protection, could American manufacturers of the above articles afford to pay their labourers?

A. They could afford to pay their labourers about 25 per cent, more than is paid by their foreign competitors and yet be on terms of equality, so far as such an increase of wages enters into and controls the value of their products.