The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52
In order to illustrate the statements in the text, some tables are subjoined, exhibiting the fluctuations in the Wages of the four principal English Industries—the Cotton, Woollen, Worsted, and Iron manufactures. The figures are extracted from the Reports issued by the Board of Trade, under the title "Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom." Unfortunately these Reports contain very little evidence upon which positive conclusions can be based. They contain, it is true, a good deal of miscellaneous information about Wages; but they appear at irregular intervals, and their information is exhibited on miscellaneous principles of inconvenience and confusion. In one Report an industry is scheduled by itself, which in the next is lost among a mass of details of the state of trade in certain districts. Sometimes Wages are estimated by the hour: sometimes by the week, and sometimes by the piece. Upon occasions the employments of workmen are distributed; while, upon others, an industry is treated as a whole, and its rate of Wages is expressed in averages; and, not unfrequently, an important trade, the condition of which has been described for several years with a most useful fulness, drops out entirely from the record never to appear again
But, in spite of the impaired value of such ill-arranged statistics, the figures are useful up to a certain point for purposes of comparison; and, in respect of the four great industries already named, they have been presented with some approach to an uniform method. These trades together give employment to about one-half of the Working Class, so that the varying rate of Wages paid in them, during the last thirty years, will indicate an approximate answer to the question—"Whether Wages in England have on the whole risen or decreased?"
A. Wages in the Cotton Industry.
* The number of hands employed in all branches of the Cotton Trade is given at 420,000 for 1874, and in 1840 it was estimated at 400,000.
In examining the fluctuations, it is convenient to adopt a rough division of the Cotton operatives into four classes, according to the degree of skill required in their several occupations.
In the first class would come the overlookers and superior artisans in each department, together with those spinners who, according to the number of spindles each man can manage, would be classed above No. 100 in the technical language of the factory. The bulk of the adult males would fall into the second class, as being spinners and weavers of average skill. Women should be ranked alone as a third class; and, for greater clearness, the Wages of children under 16 should also be considered separately.
The subjoined Tables are an attempt to carry out this principle of division.
It appears from these Tables that in the year 1839 the Wages of the highest paid Overlooker, in any Department, was 25s. for a week of 69 hours, which is twelve hours a day, with nine hours on Saturday for a half holiday. Ten years later—after Free Trade—his Wages had risen to 28s., and his hours of work had been reduced to 60 in the week. Since that date there has been a steady improvement in Wages, together with a further reduction in the hours of work. The lowest paid Overlooker now gets more for 56½ hours work than the best paid Overlooker received in 1849 for 60 hours, while the remuneration of the more skilled Overlookers has increased more than 50 per cent, in the same period. The increase in the Wages of the Engineers is even more remarkable. They have more than doubled in the last thirty years. The skilled spinners—after a temporary fall through the introduction of machinery—are also better off than they were. Those who are the least skilled among them are paid higher for less work, and the rewards open to them for a higher exercise of skill are considerably increased. Even the class of Unskilled Labourers, whose progress, as already noted in the text,* is generally slower, have, in some cases, doubled their Wages in the same thirty years; although, with reference to this Class, it should not be forgotten, that many of its members are constantly pushing forward into better paid employments, and that it is also being constantly recruited from below by those, who, in former days, would have lived as paupers or vagabonds.
The figures which show the Wages paid to Women need no further explanation. They will show, with sufficient clearness, how low is the market value of woman's labour, and how little has been done to raise that value by intelligent and powerful combination. Unlike men, women are not yet paid by reference to any standard of class comfort, but are content with any pittance, which may increase the family resources, however insufficient that may be, by itself, to keep one person in a position of health and decency. By such ill-judged economy, they only depress the general labour market, without obtaining for themselves independence or security; so that they tempt men, who are heedless of the impossibility of bringing women back to a state of subjection, to clamour for their exclusion from male employments.
* See page 14.