Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Penny Bank is given in the balance-sheet as 'only slightly over 31. Os. 10d., for each deposit,' at 24 per cent. per annum. And as interest is only paid for each complete calendar month, while most of the wage-earners' savings are both paid in and withdrawn as the occasion offers and requires, without any regard to the time, it will frequently happen they would not be paid nor entitled to any interest for the moneys they have withdrawn.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

As will be seen, there is only an actual net saving, including interest, of 682,1411. 93. 8d., out of an accredited saving of 10,424,3431. 198. 5d., the remaining capital, 10,175,631l. 98., having been withdrawn and used, so far as it was owned by the working classes, for some necessary household requirements during the course of the year. The plain truth is, in innumerable cases where the wage-earners are concerned, the money is only taken to the bank to be out of reach, and away from the temptation to spend it, which would surely happen if they tried to save it at home; the self-denial that must be exercised in many instances being truly heroic, and worthy of all praise.?

In making any estimate of the ability of the working classes generally to save what may be thought an adequate provision for their wants in old-age, we must bear in mind not only the money amount of their wages, but also what they can buy with them; and also how far the want of continuity in their employment will affect the general average of their earnings; and, further, the encroachment of the machine upon their field of labour, which may render their opportunities most precarious for making a livelihood even at all; and this, not forgetting the political economists' alternative of changing their employment, which is to-day well-nigh impossible, as all the occupations are overcrowded. I am no pessimist, nor do I believe that the British workman as an industrial force is played out; but it is advisable that he should bestir himself and, instead of relying upon others for help, take the future into his own hands, and, as he can, help himself.

: The Yorkshire Penny Bank is a striking example of the difficulties which will beset the path of the statistical inquirer when he sets out to ascertain what may fairly be considered the capital savings of the industrial class. For, as may be guessed from its large capital turnover, although a penny bank both in fact and in name, inasmuch as it receives deposits of one penny up to any amount, it also does a large commercial business over its counters, customers being supplied with cheques and drafts as in regular commercial banks; this business accounting in a great measure for its large capital turnover and accrued interest, and notmas would be expected by anyone ignorant of this phase of its character-the savings of its working-class investors. The Leeds, Skyrack, and Morley Savings Bank, started in 1818 for the promotion of thrift among the working classes, is, as its name implies, wholly and solely a savings bank. And, as will be noticed, the situation has only been saved by the accrued interest, otherwise the bank would have had to record a loss on its transactions for

the year.

The most effectual way to do this, in my opinion, is to begin when our sons and daughters are on the threshold of their working lives, and, instead of selfishly putting them to some occupation which will ensure the largest return to the family exchequer for the time being, make a little sacrifice on their behalf, and have them taught a trade which will enable them to provide for themselves in after-life, as, to my mind, this dereliction of duty on the part of parents accounts for much of the distress arising through want of work with which we are made cognisant; their action in this matter creating an army of general labourers, overgrown errand-boys and clerks, for whom the community have no use as producers, and who act as a drag on the prosperity of their class as competitors in the labour market, keeping down wages, and continually allowing themselves to slip down into the residuum who do not want any work at all. However, while this is a difficulty, it is not one that cannot be got over, difficulties being only raised to be overcome. And I thoroughly believe, by teaching all who are capable of being taught a trade, with its greater call for intellectual training and moral elevation, even this obstacle would be surmounted, and workmen reared who would do yeoman service to the State.

As may be inferred, while I have a strong and abiding faith in British labour, still it must be admitted there is cause for heartsearching in the truth that even at present, when our manufacturing industries are busy with an abounding trade, we have still in our midst large numbers of worthy men and women who are barely able to win by their labour a decent maintenance for themselves and their families. While this is a proposition that will not be seriously disputed, still, at the same time, I do not consider it is one which even under present-day industrial conditions should be accepted as inevitable, as, from whatever standpoint we look upon the British workman's position-whether as regards the general workshop conditions of his employment, his hours of labour and rates of wages, taken together with their purchasing power over the commodities which form the necessaries and some of the luxuries of our daily life we shall find that when he is in regular work, he and his family are able to live well, dress well, and have a comfortable, well-furnished

home, without having need for any haunting fear that they will overrun the constable, and that it is only when he is out of employment that he feels the shoe pinches and cries out accordingly. Of course it

may be said the only in this case means a great deal. And so it does—all the difference between comparative affluence and poverty. But, as I hope to show in the course of this article, it need not make all the difference we so often see, dragging even the well-paid artisan, after two or three weeks of enforced idleness, into indigence and debt, when, with more care and forethought in the expenditure of his wages during the times which were prosperous, he could not only have paid his way, but also have put aside some few shillings a week which would prove useful in the time of adversity—which will as surely come again as will to-morrow's sun.

As being pertinent to our inquiry at this point, it may be well to state briefly some of the causes which have helped very materially to bring about the deficiency of employment which is so marked a feature of the present boom in trade.

Ever since the inception of the industrial revolution in our manufactures, some one hundred and fifty years ago, there has been a constant endeavour on the part of our captains of industry to devise means for reducing the cost of making the various products of their mills and workshops. In the beginning, and for many years onward, these efforts were mainly concentrated on the provision of improved machinery for increasing the output, as the market at that time had not become a restricted one. But as time passed on, and competition became more general and keener, their ingenuity was perforce exercised in the invention of machinery whereby the expenses of labour, which had become an onerous burden on the cost of production, should be reduced to a minimum, without at the same time making any actual diminution in the money amount of the workman's wages, although often increasing the intensity of his labour. This movement, which has for many years been steadily advancing, has during the course of the last decade become much more accentuated, until now we find work which formerly we should never have dreamed would come within the province of the machine, is being carried out through this medium well-nigh without the intervention of human agency. Thus, while it is true the progress of science and invention during the period under review has had a great deal to do with the social and material advancement of the working classes, it has nevertheless tended in many instances to the workman being elbowed out of his employment, and his place taken by the machine. Still, while this invasion of the industrial field has resulted in the discomfiture of the workman, and added very considerably to the difficulties of his position, I do not believe it will be useful to enlarge upon this view; suffice it to say that this feature of the situation obtains right through the whole gamut of the industries. Labours which some years since

were performed altogether by hand have at this time become the prerogative of the machine, with very little assistance from the workman, and invariably with a largely resultant increase in the output. However, although this competition induces a direct conflict with their sphere of labour, I do not think the more thoughtful workmen expect it can be otherwise under the prevailing system of international rivalry for work. They of necessity recognise that the laboursaving machines which have been invented and introduced to effect economies in the wages bill are necessary as a means to that end; even if, as I am constrained to say, it results in the elimination of the workman in some cases.

And these adverse circumstances we may expect to continue until the working population readjusts itself to the changed conditions. Meanwhile, there is a considerable shrinkage in employment from this cause, which reacts unfavourably on the workman's chances of earning a living, not to speak of saving, which is indeed problematical.

As will be readily understood, the only weekly wage-earners who can save systematically are those who are in fairly regular employ. ment; not necessarily those with the highest wages, for, paradoxical as it may appear, it often happens those with the lower wages save the most, they having been more severely schooled in the practice of thrift, and thus gained a better knowledge of cutting their coat according to their cloth. As no doubt regular saving is the most effective method, and tells far better in the long run, it is desirable for all who wish to help themselves to begin in this way; and, whatever may be their wages, or however small the sums they have at their disposal, it is bad policy to think the little they have is not worth taking care of, as far too many do, which results in their not saving at all. Not that spasmodic saving is to be deprecated, it being far better to take one or two shillings to the bank when they can be spared, even if it is meant to be withdrawn as soon as the required sum has been saved for some avowed object, maybe to buy a new suit, a dress, or mantle, or some much coveted article of furniture or furnishing; this, although a great advance on economic grounds over spending the same amount of money with a tallyman for a much inferior article, is really a part of the expenses of a household, which, while it may form a part of the statistical wealth of the wage-earners, will not add to their bank balances or to the capital value of the country.

But, much as I know it is needed, I am almost ashamed to deal in this elementary way with the question of saving, so I will now try to come to close quarters with the more definite part of the subject, and give a concrete example of what can be done with a workman's earnings under present industrial conditions. By way of illustration, I will take the case of a joiner's labourer with whom I came in contact some time since. He was an Irishman, open-handed and free, and for his class very intelligent and well-read; a man who could be

relied on to keep his end up in whatever work was undertaken, one who did not lose time except through stress of weather, which would happen on wet days when at work on 'unprotected' buildings. His rate of wages was 6}d. per hour for fifty hours a week, which amounted to 278. ld. for a full week; but as this was seldom worked owing to the exigencies of the weather, his wages would suffer an average depreciation of about 10 per cent. from this cause, this leaving his net earnings at 24s. 5d. per week, for the support, housing, and clothing of himself, his wife, and two children, who went to school. From this sum he handed to his wife 208. a week for rent and household expenses, reserving to himself the balance for tobacco and other small items, and as he was not a teetotaler a very occasional glass of the national beverage ; while, as regards his reading, he went to the free library. Out of the 4s. 5d. he held in reserve he also bought his own boots and clothing, and in addition was the holder of one share in a local Building Society, which entailed a payment of 28. 6d. per week.

The way in which the house-money was expended may be thus tabulated :

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

House rent, clear of all rates
Fire and lighting, gas 6d.
Flour, 1} stones; yeast, 3d.
Butcher's meat, 4 lb., imported
Bacon, 2 lb., imported
Tea, 4 lb., 5d; butter, 1 lb., 18.; eggs, four, 3d. .
Soap, 1 lb., 3d. ; sugar, 2 lb., 4d.; lard, } lb., 3d.
Cocoa, { lb., 8d.; currants, } lb., 2}d.; lemon peel, 134.
Grocer's sundries, rice, salt, pepper, mustard, etc.
Milk, one quart per day at 3d.
Potatoes, other vegetables, and fruit

[blocks in formation]

The house is what is known in the North as a 'scullery house,' containing keeping and coal cellars, living kitchen with oven, where the goodwife can bake her own bread and do her own cooking, and scullery, on the ground floor, and two bedrooms on the first floor, and for this rent an attic. The 2s. 6d. remaining for dress allowance and contingencies for wife and children is not an extravagant one, being only 61. 108. for the year; but evidently it proved ample, as they always turned out neat and tidy; while as regards the husband, after providing the 28. 6d. for their share in the Building Society, which must be paid, otherwise they were liable to be fined, he had ls. 11d. left with which to face his weekly expenses, or 41. 198. 8d. for the year. This sum, though not large, was made to suffice without stinginess, as the man and his attire always appeared clean and respectable. On the completion of the job where we were both engaged, we each went our respective ways, and I have not come across or heard of the man

« AnteriorContinua »