Imatges de pÓgina
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Act was, we have no doubt, passed in the best interests of labour. But it has certainly resulted in rendering the position of many of the older men in their employment more precarious—men who have grown grey in the service of their employers, of whom it is often facetiously said they would have to be taken over along with the freehold when a change of proprietorship was made. I have known several of these men who have had to be turned adrift from this cause; and others because of this and trade union regulations combined, which would not permit them to accept lower wages for easier and less dangerous work in the same employment. And in this way many an old tie between workman and employer has had to be severed, and the kindly associations engendered by long years of service between man and man has had to be cast to the four winds because employers must be just to themselves before generous to their employees; and from these causes many an old workman who was competent for lighter work at less wages has become unemployable.

Another side issue which has proved an important factor in the cause of unemployment among the masses of the people is the superficial education we have been giving to our children in the elementary schools during the last thirty odd years. Not only has this training failed in turning out a more intelligent and willing body of workers but it has also rendered many of its recipients through a feeling of false pride unemployable. At the same time I do not wish to infer from this objection that the requisite skill to carry out many mechanical operations cannot be more readily gained and successfully applied by a capable educated workman; always provided that his moral training, his conscientiousness, is commensurate with his acquired abilities. But, unfortunately, this is too often not the case. That little learning which is a dangerous thing has upset his mental equilibrium, and instead of his abilities assisting him in his labours they have tended to make his work more irksome and distasteful, and, as it were, beneath his dignity. Education is a most desirable adjunct to industry, but whenever it interferes with discipline it is not an unalloyed blessing. The truth is we have attempted too much ; the superstructure cannot be substantial if the foundation has been badly laid. Instead of in the first instance teaching thoroughly the three R's, grammar, composition, history, geography, and, above all, what can be taught for the formation of moral character, we have wearied our children's minds with problems in geometry, algebra, and other abstruse subjects, which, if learned, are of no use to ninetenths of our working people, and so are promptly forgotten. And, further, this is a fact that cannot be ignored, and one which promises little hope for improvement in the educational status of my class. If nine-tenths of our working men can read and write fairly well, and have mastered sufficient arithmetic to enable them to understand the state of the odds,' that is enough to satisfy their limited requirements. And, if it were possible to imbue the majority of our workmen with the enthusiasm for work they have for sport and play, they would be irresistible and carry all before them. Nor can this failure of education in its alliance with labour be ascribed altogether to faults of the system or the teachers, as many parents must be held in a measure blameable for this shortcoming through allowing their children to be absent from school so often : while many others who, by the exercise of stern self-denial, have kept their children under tuition beyond the regular school age have, when they set them to work, insisted on putting them to some occupation where they can obtain their livelihood with their coats on. And in this way many a lad with a happy knack for searching out the why and wherefore of mechanical contrivances has been doomed to an uncongenial life on a desk stool; whereas, but for the false pride which apes gentility, had he been allowed to pursue the top of his bent, he would have turned out a creditable and willing producer of wealth——a six o'clock man-instead of being an incubus on the labour of others as a consumer ; a misfit, a round peg in a square hole, dissatisfied with himself and a drag upon the progress of the rest of the community. The notion that unfortunately prevails among the majority of working class parents, who by dint of hard work and strict economy have managed to give their sons an education above the common, that these qualifications must needs be used as a stepping-stone to some occupation otherwise than manual labour, is a mistaken one. For while the black-coated brigade is always overcrowded and treading on each other's heels for employment, and even when in work, except in the higher positions, badly paid, there are always opportunities for clever lads with some push in them to rise to positions as foremen and managers in our textile mills, engineering, building, and general workshops, which would afford them better pay and more regular employment.

The tariff reformers' Open Sesame for the remedy of unemployment—the imposition of import duties on manufactured commodities from over the sea-is not at present within the range of practical politics ; nor, I venture to say, likely to be for many long years. Still, as it is being strenuously pushed to the front, we will try to ascertain if any comfort for the workless one can be gained from this

In the first place we must ask, What duties can be imposed on foreign imports which will prove beneficial to the working classes ? I am decidedly of opinion that foodstuffs of whatever nature, and from whatever quarter they come, must be resolutely ruled out of this category. While the raw materials of every class used in our varied manufactures should be as free of access to our shores as the air we breathe, as it is as necessary to our existence as a manufacturing nation. Then as regards the semi-manufactured material we have heard so much about, this is equally as advantageous to our employers and workmen. For instance, take steel billets; these are the raw material for the rolling of steel plates, angles, joists, and other sections, and it is more than possible that the coal and coke used in their production abroad was exported from this country, and that the workman in wages and the colliery owner in profit has benefited by the transaction. Further, the sole reason why these semi-manufactures can be 'dumped' is that they are less costly than that of the home producer; and it is undoubtedly true that this ' dumping 'has enabled our home traders in many instances to buy this semi-raw material, complete its manufacture, and then re-export the finished product to the country of its origin. And all through the process the course of barter and exchange has furnished wages for our workmen, employment for our ships, and profit for the capitalist. But there is another aspect of our foreign trade that cannot be ignored, which tends to cut the ground from under our feet and render less stable our opportunities for advancement in our trade relations with our foreign customers. Just now, and for years, our engineers and machinists have been busy building mills and workshops in India, China, Japan, and other countries, and fitting them with motive power and machinery for the production of manufactured goods of all classes. I would ask if it is in the nature of things, after we have fitted these factories abroad with all necessary appliances for the natives of those countries to make the finished product for themselves, that we can expect them to take our finished goods as well ? Our innate good sense tells us that we cannot. We must understand these manufactories have been built for use, and not for show. And, while our workmen and capitalist employers, and through them the country generally, have reaped the benefit of the foreign orders, their after effects must recoil on our own heads in making competition keener for our manufacturers in those countries. Personally I do not think we have any cause for complaint on this score ; we cannot both eat our cake and have it; and while our workers in wood and iron are prospering by this labour, the competition it induces will compel our merchants and manufacturers to get out of the old groove, or otherwise be side-tracked, and strike out into new paths wherever these influences bar the way to the old.

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Those of us who are old enough to remember the early fifties of the last century, when flour and bread—the workman's staff of lifewere more than twice the price they are to-day; when tea and sugar, and colonia) produce generally, were dear and scarce articles on the workman's table; when the purchase of a new suit, a dress, a bonnet or a Paisley shawl was an event which came so seldom that it was regarded as a red-letter day in the calendar of the workman's home, and celebrated accordingly, when wages were from 20 to 30 per cent. less than at this time, and were further depreciated in their purchasing power under the shadow of the restrictions of trade which then obtained ; when employment was more scanty and trade

depressions more severe ; none of us who can recall our experiences of fifty years since would, I aver, even lift a finger to help to bring them back again. While the younger generation, if they will but read, can live over again in history the stress and durance of the time, and thus fortify themselves against any insidious attempts to check the free and natural flow of imports and exports under whatever name -tariff reform, broadening the basis of taxation, or bald protectionas these will only end in reducing the volume of employment and raising the prices of commodities to the consumer ; and in their special application to the working classes making them

poorer. But by far the most potent causes which affect the continuity and volume of employment, with reference to which it will be necessary to speak plainly, are the wastage of health and wealth on intemperance of all kinds ; and strikes and lock-outs. These factors in the production of slackness in the call for labour and dislocations in trade are undoubtedly the most powerful of which we are made cognisant. There are few of us who can afford to waste our capital in riotous living or in idleness and not be left the poorer. But to the great body of the people this extravagant misuse of their money and their labour simply courts disaster. And it is obvious we have in these reasons for national depreciation the root causes most inimical to the progress in well-being of the working classes of this country.

To begin with the drink bill : according to calculations which have been made, 6s. 10d. per week is the average sum spent upon intoxicating liquors by every working class family in this kingdom. This estimate has been examined in great detail by Messrs. Rowntree and Sherwell, who have tested the figures in a number of ways. The result of their investigation is summed up as follows:

That a large proportion of the working classes spend very much less than the amount suggested is certain ; but it is equally certain that a considerable number spend very much more, and when all possible deductions have been made, it is doubtful if the average family expenditure upon intoxicants can be reckoned at less than 68. per week.'

Taking this estimate of 6s. per week for each household as our basis, and taking the number of working class dwellings as given by Mr. Chiozza Money, M.P., in Riches and Poverty at 6,500,000, we have an expenditure on intoxicating liquors alone of 1,950,0001. per week by the six and a half millions of families involved. That this huge sum is far more than reasonable moderation can possibly require there are few will deny. And the question is, What is reasonable moderation in strong drink? My own estimate, as it is my practice, is a half pint a day, 3} pints per week, at a cost of 8fd. & week for bottled beer at 21d. per pint. But as I am probably more abstemious than the average, we will allow two pints a day, or fourteen pint bottles for the week, which will entail an expenditure of 2s. 11d. a week on this item by every working class family in the kingdom. But even this saving can be improved upon by buying our beer in the cask. A very good beer can be bought for 18. a gallon, but as we have no desire to sacrifice quality to cheapness, we will pay 18. 2d. for it; and as our beer will now cost us less money we will extend our allowance for the benefit of the toper to two gallons, or sixteen pints per week, which will cost 28. 4d. We shall now be in a position to compute the saving which can be made in the workman's share in the annual drink bill, and also to show how useful this saving will prove in the provision of employment. Deducting the 2s. 4d. beer money from the 6s. given as the average, we have 38. 8d. left per family as & saving on this item ; or for the 6,500,000 families, 1,191,6661. per week, which makes for the whole year over 61,966,6321.

| Mr. B. S. Rowntree's Poverty : a Study of Town Life.

As it is obvious the necessities of the labouring classes would require them to spend most of this saving on articles of dress, we will try and ascertain what they could buy per family with it, and also what the sum total would come to for the whole country. For convenience in calculation it will be desirable to bring the 3s. 8d. a week saved into a lump sum for the year, which is 91. 108. 8d. Having presumed that the money will be spent on useful articles of wearing apparel generally, we will take woollens first, and"make provision for material for suits for the father and son of the family ; this will require six yards of cloth, wide width, at 78. per yard, i.e. 21. 2s., which leaves us with 71. 88. 8d. to apportion among the other members of the family. On the supposition that they will require new coats or mantles and as there are three of varying ages to provide for, we shall have to buy seven yards of double width cloth at 48. per yard for the purpose, i.e. ll. 88., this reducing our balance to 61. Os. 8d. As the mother and girls will be needing new dresses we will lay out a portion of our residue on wide-width union dress goods, which will take twelve yards of this material at ls. 6d. per yard, or 188. for this item. We have yet 51. 28. 8d. in hand, and as cotton goods will be required for various articles of underclothing, which will be made at home, we will purchase thirty-two yards of calico and flannelette at an average price of 5d. per yard, which will cost us 138. 4d. From the 41. 98. 4d. we have left, we will buy boots for the whole family at an average cost of 98. per pair, i.e. 21. 58. for five pairs. We have still a remainder of 21. 48. 4d., which it would be good policy to keep as a nest-egg against possible bad times, or expended, if absolutely needful, on other articles

of utility.

Having now accounted for our savings on the drink bill of the great body of the people, we will proceed to demonstrate their effect in the provision of increased employment in the textile and shoemaking industries. So far as the woollen trade is concerned, we have an annual additional requirement of six yards at 78. per yard, seven yards at 48. and twelve yards of dress stuffs at 1s. 6d. a yard, while

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