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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Chapter VI. — Provision of Remunerative Employment for Surplus Labour

Chapter VI.

Provision of Remunerative Employment for Surplus Labour.

I propose that sixteen blocks of land of from 20,000 to 25,000 acres each block be selected by the Government; that large and commodious buildings be erected, with all necessary outhouses; that the land be fenced and well stocked; and that the blocks be called State co-operative farms. It would be necessary to employ a permanent staff to instruct those employed, to see that the work is done, and to maintain order. The permanent farm-hands and the strong able-bodied unemployed would break up the land, erect fencing, and do all the hard work, such as clearing the land, making roads, bridges, &c., thus paving the way for light employment for others. When such farms are in working-order I propose that all the boys and girls in our orphan homes, at the age of ten years, be sent to such farms, where they will be under a schoolmaster and schoolmistress, who, in addition to mental, will also commence to give them technical education in the art of flower-culture. During the first two years we may fairly expect they have learned as much as will enable them during the next two years—that is, from the age of twelve to fourteen—to earn the cost of their maintenance. On first arrival at such farms each child will receive an allotment of ground which has been specially prepared for them, small blocks for a page 13 flower-garden, such as a father or mother would allot to children. The schoolmaster and mistress would encourage the children by-giving small prizes to those who keep their little gardens in the neatest and best order, and to those who produce the most and the best flowers. That would be a pleasing way of directing their minds whilst young to something useful. Herbert V. Mills says, "In Liverpool children going to school and working half-time are actually earning 2s. 6d. a week at the age of ten years only." I know myself at the present time boys at the age of thirteen or fourteen receiving from 8s. to 10s. a week; therefore we may fairly calculate that children at any light employment would earn the cost of their maintenance at the ages of from twelve to fourteen. At the age of fourteen I propose to have them made State apprentices, but from fourteen to sixteen they would only work half-time, and school half-time, and night-school if they wish it. The first two years—that is, from fourteen to sixteen—are allowed for them to try any and every trade, and choose the one best fitted for them. From the age of sixteen to twenty-one they would work full time, having the option of a night-school. During their apprenticeship, by my calculations from reliable tradesmen, they would be worth for the first and following years, in addition to their home, food, and clothing—first year, 1s. per week; second year, 2s.; third year, 4s.; fourth, 6s.; fifth, 8s.; sixth, 10s.; seventh, £1 a week. During those seven years propose that the manager may give to each apprentice the sum of £17 12s. as pocket-money; and, if the apprentice, on completing his time at the age of twenty-one years, has given satisfaction, the manager may give him £50, with good credentials, to start life on his own account. That would be a good inducement to good behaviour. And surely it would be a means of reducing larrikinism, crime, and vice in our towns and cities, and so make good men and women of our orphans. If such results would be realised, our orphan apprentices would have earned £132 12s., and have received £67 12s. Thus the State would be a clear gainer by each orphan apprentice of £65, or at the rate of £9 5s. 8d. a year. Numbers may object to all orphans being made State apprentices; others may object to the State letting out orphans on hire to such people as Mrs. Williams of the Thames, and the Abbotts at Christchurch. Will any one take and train those orphans in domestic duties, or receive them as apprentices, except with a view to be directly or indirectly benefited by them? Then, I ask, is it right that the State, whose duty it is to look after our orphans, after having kept them from their infancy at the expense of the people up to the age of eleven or fifteen years, as soon as such orphans become useful and able to earn more than the cost of their maintenance, to let them out on hire? Surely the State is more likely to take a further interest in them than any individual, and, if any benefit is to be derived from the work of the children, then who but the State has the most right to it. And the reader must bear in mind that any benefit so gained by the orphans, or by the cheap labour of the unemployed, or by any productions page 14 from such farms, goes towards providing a home with comfort for the aged and needy, and relieving the masses of the poor rates.

We have done well by the boys; let us now see about the girls. We will suppose the girls have also earned the cost of their maintenance from the age of twelve to fourteen. At the age of fourteen I propose they be taught all the domestic duties of a home, such as cooking, washing and ironing, the mending and making of socks and stockings, the mending and making of all kinds of ladies' and gentlemen's wearing apparel, knitting and embroidery, and numerous other industries.

On such large estates, where so many people have to be provided for, see the quantity of vegetables that would be required daily. Then soon a quantity of fruit would be grown. Then soon we should require fruit-, jam-, and pickle-factories, which would provide lots of light employment. I should suggest that flower-culture be carried on on a large scale, with perfume-factories. By establishing and carrying on such industries we provide employment for all sorts and conditions of men, women, and children, and thus we relieve all poverty so far as it is possible, and we keep our tens of thousands of pounds in the colony instead of sending the money away to support the unemployed with cheap labour in some other country.

Such farms would also offer a home to unfortunate women. And would not such unfortunates sooner go to such a farm, where they would be away from all their haunts and associates? But I should suggest that all who have brought trouble on themselves should, after they are restored to health, be called upon to satisfy the State by cash or by labour for the cost of their maintenance. Why should the hard-working industrious man be continually having fresh burdens of taxation laid upon him through the prostitution of such women, or for the maintenance of the illegitimate children of unfortunate women? What, I ask, is the result of the present treatment of this class? They go to homes provided for them, have the best of treatment, are restored to health, and on the very day of gaining their liberty are met by their old associates and feel that they have a new license; and should they again get into trouble they have nothing to do but go back to the home again, plead a desire to do better, and be again admitted. Surely such women are more deserving to be sent to gaol than unfortunates who have no lawful visible means of support. Then, as to those we term "unfortunates," are we not holding out inducements to them by letting them know, if they give way to their would-be seducer, and, as is most natural, get into trouble, "Here is a home for you where you will receive the best of attention until you are strong; then you must go to service, and be more careful in future"; and their child is put to one of the homes, and saddled on the taxpayers. Women under such circumstances should be made to tell who the father is, so that he may be made to pay the expenses, or the mother should satisfy the State. What is it that brings numbers of our women to such a position? The want of employment in many cases; the page 15 sweating system at starvation-wages in many others. How will you prevent one or both of these? By offering to all in want a home and employment, free from temptation or vice, at one of the State farms.

We have no large manufactories in this country; but people your land with thousands of small farmers, as in France, and then you make room for capitalists to come and buy your productions and to supply your requirements. England and Wales have provided 649 workhouses for their poor. God forbid that this grand country should come to such! But the Government of New Zealand have provided no place for their aged and infirm poor. It is certainly their duty to do so. Then, what shall it be? Let it be something that will support itself if possible. Let the Government give employment to all surplus labour, and provide a home for the aged, infirm, and needy, relieving the taxpayer, and the people will bless them.