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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 81

Conclusion from the Facts

Conclusion from the Facts.

My conclusion, therefore, is that while the workers' cost of living his increased probably 20 per cent since the Act came into force, this increase has been only in very small part due to the operations of the Arbitration Act, or in other words, is not appreciably due to the all round increase in wages. 17.9 per cent., which the Court has given in the trades it has dealt with.

But I also said at Wanganui that employers had transferred to the community, in the shape of increased prices, the extra wages the Court had awarded, and I have been told that my two conclusions are inconsistent, and that if all the extra wages have been so transferred in the shape of prices to the consumers the particular consumers affected must pay for the all round 17.9 per cent, increase in wages given by the Court. I admit this, but it does not contradict my proposition that the increase has not materially affected the workers' cost of living, because
(1)The workers benefited by the Act are but a class, and the burden of their increased wages does not return in the shape of prices upon themselves alone, but is distributed over the whole body of the consumers, of whom they may be but a small section, small in proportionate numbers and smaller still in the extent of their consumption—e.g., in the case of luxuries.
(2)Of the 80 trades referred to in the Parliamentary Return above quoted the great majority are not engaged in any way in supplying any of the articles upon which a worker's wage is almost invariably spent, and hence the price of these articles cannot be appreciably affected even indirectly by increases of wages in the majority of these trades.
(3)The prices of foodstuffs in N.Z. have not varied appreciably owing to any Arbitration Court increase of page 6 wages, and consequently their increased prices are not due to any transfer of increased wages to consumers.

I repeat, therefore, my statement at Wanganui, that even if no increase in wages had taken place in New Zealand during the last 14 years, the workers' cost of living would still have greatly increased, owing to the high prices for our foodstuffs in foreign markets, and the great increase in the unimproved value of land and the cost of building material. I maintain'; therefore, that the Arbitration Court has not, by an alleged increasing of the cost of living, destroyed the benefit of the all round increase in its rates of wages.