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bears a resemblance to the English and the French law. The following are the principal provisions :
In the first place, the scope of the measure embraces all industrial and commercial undertakings, without regard to the number of hands employed. It excludes agricultural labourers and domestic servants, but it classes skilled employees whose salary does not exceed 2,400 francs under the head of ouvriers simples. Compensation is not due till on and after the fifteenth day after the accident.
A. When the worker is temporarily disabled, and (1) totally, compensation is to amount to 50 per cent. of his average weekly wages; (2) partly, it is to be 50 per cent. of the difference between the average weekly wages of the sufferer prior to the accident and those which he is capable of earning pending his complete recovery.
B. If the worker is, or becomes permanently disabled, a life-pension is due to him, equivalent to 50 per cent., either of his average annual wages, or to the difference between his former and his present wages, in accordance with the distinction laid down in the case of temporary disablement (A (1) and (2)). In case of death through an accident, firstly, 50 francs are to be allowed for funeral expenses ; secondly, the widow receives a sum corresponding to the value of a life-pension at the age of the deceased from the moment of his death, equal to 20 per cent. of his average daily wages; thirdly, if he leave children under fifteen, or any parents or grand-parents of whom at the moment of death he was the sole support, they shall receive a life-pension reckoned as above, and equal to as many times 5 per cent. of his daily wages as there are claimants under this category.
In no case may these indemnities exceed the value of a life-pension equal to 30 per cent. of the daily wages of the victim.
The bill determines, in detail such as I cannot here reproduce, how the average weekly wages are to be computed.
The employer is solely liable for rendering compensation, and he may not, for this purpose, hold in reserve any portion of the employees' wages. As this compensation may amount to 50 per cent., it is equivalent to a charge on the employer of one-half of the general trade risk.
In the case of the worker's permanent disablement or death, the employer should deposit the capital for the pensions become due, either at the Caisse d'Epargne et de Retraite under State guarantee, or with an insurance company approved by the Government.
If an employer insures himself with a company against the risk of possible accidents to his employees, he remains none the less directly responsible to the latter. The credit of the victim or of his claimants is regarded as specially privileged, in the absence of any insurance, or in the case of the insurer's insolvency, as compared with the employer's creditors in general. In this way the bill sets up guarantees for the payment of compensation, so as to evade the reproaches incurred by all systems which do not organise insurance by the State.
Strong objections have already made themselves heard in the name of small and medium scale industry against the depositing of capital for such periodic payments. It is alleged that such a method will tend to be the ruin of small firms.
Heads of firms have the power of combining to establish a common deposit-fund, for the purpose of insuring themselves against risk of accident and to take upon themselves collectively, in place of the General Savings and Pension Bank, the payment of pensions as well as the deposit and administration of the requisite capital. The articles of these banks must be approved by the Government, and the latter is free to append conditions for the guarantee of creditors. The advantage which employers will derive from these banks is that of a devolution of the obligations incumbent on them.
There is evidently here no question of trade banks like the Berufgenossenchaften of Germany, nor of the district banks of Austria. Moreover the banks are not compulsory institutions, and there is absolute freedom as to how the heads of firms may group themselves, as in France.
It is of course open to masters and men to agree on higher rates of compensation in case of accident than those laid down in the bill. In this case they are said to be entirely free to establish supplementary compensation.
The bill over-rides a sharp controversy which has arisen among lawyers, by declaring that the one contingency where the new Act would not apply is that of an accident deliberately induced by master or man, and which would constitute an action for damages against the perpetrator. All disputes on points of felony (culpa gravis) and misdemeanour (culpa levis) are in this way ruled out of court.
In all questions of procedure the Government has given up any idea of appointing special councils of arbitration, as is done in Germany and England. It gives authority to magistrates and to the ordinary civil tribunals to decide in all questions of compensation. This simplifies formalities and reduces costs. An action is commenced by a declaration of the occurrence of the accident, which must be made within three days, by the head of the firm, at the office of the magistrate's clerk.
The bill is quite certain to give occasion for heated debates in Parliament. The Government will have to be on its defence against the Socialists and certain other representatives, limited in number, who desire compulsory State insurance, as well as against many Liberal manufacturers, backed up by skilful lawyers and actuaries. On its side there will be the bulk of those who favour conciliation and middle courses, as well as the insurance companies, for whom the carrying into effect of the new Act would mean good business.
To resume : the bill being, in its existing form, a compromise between extreme opinions, it is likely that the Government will secure a majority.
The “ Industry and Labour " Office in the Belgian Ministry makes other claims besides its new bills on the attention of economists. It is publishing the results of inquiries, and other works of a genuinely scientific character. Malicious tongues go so far as to say that its occupants hold office for no other purpose.
Among these publications should be mentioned the Reports on Technical Education. M. O. Pyfferoen, professor at the University of Ghent, has edited two volumes of these Reports, the results of minute investigations, one being on technical education in England (1 vol. 8°, Bruxelles, 1896), the other on technical education in Germany (1 vol. 8°, Bruxelles, 1897). The volume dealing with Belgium (Bruxelles, 1897) relates to the years 1894-6, and is an exhaustive work of reference.
In 1895 an inquiry was instituted by this department on Sunday labour. Three volumes are devoted to the statistics of the subject in Belgian factories and workshops, mines, smelting-works, and quarries. Another volume contains reports on Sunday labour in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Great Britain.
M. Maurice Ansiaux, professor at the Free University of Brussels, was commissioned by the Minister of the department in question to travel in France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Austria, and Germany, and report on how far night-work is carried on by women in the industries of those countries. His Report appeared in 1898 (1 vol. 8°). It is extremely interesting, not only from the facts it contains, but from the author's reasoned criticism thereon. Nothing shows better the difficulty under which a conscientious observer labours in endeavouring to give account of even a very simple state of things as they actually are in a foreign country.
The Labour Office is at this moment undertaking a vast inquiry into the home industries of Belgium. And besides this, it is about to commence publishing the results of the industrial census of 1896,
-a task which was carried out with a precision and verified by a patience nothing short of marvellous.
Further, it has just undertaken a new periodical publication, destined to be a great success, viz., L'Annuaire de la Législation du Travail. This is an annual register containing, in French, the text of all the laws concerning labour in all industrial countries, as well as all enactments bearing on their execution. The Year-book does not intend to include in its scope all social legislation. It will confine itself to the laws dealing with the organisation of labour, that is to say, to “all those which touch on the liberty of work, on the right of combination and of striking, on the right of masters and of men to association, on the relations between capital and labour during arbitration and conciliation; to the laws relating to contracts for labour and to contracts of apprenticeship, to wages, to the regulation of labour, to measures of safety and sanitation prescribed on behalf of workers, and to the inspection of work; to the laws relating to accidents incurred during work and to workmen's insurance, &c.” The volume which has appeared comprises the laws and decrees coming under this category which were promulgated in 1897 in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Roumania, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
Under Great Britain, e.g., in addition to a dozen statutory rules and orders having every variety of purport, we have a translation of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Act to give Power to make Regulations with respect to Cotton Cloth Factories (Aug. 6, 1897), and the Act for the prevention of Accidents by Chaff-cutting Machines (Aug. 6). The most important laws are preceded by a note, indicative of the scope of the law, and giving a résumé of the Parliamentary publications on the subject.
This register meets a general want. It is in fact one of the chief objects of that International Labour Bureau, for the creation of which we have been waiting ever since the Berlin Congress.
It may easily be conceived that, after some years have passed, and when we shall really have gathered together all the laws obtaining in each country, and be keeping our collectanea up to date, that the latter will be of incalculable value--a value which would be considerably enhanced if a translation into English and into German could be made.
The Belgian Government can hardly undertake such a work, but it would of course form one of the tasks of an International Association concerned with Labour Legislation, such as was brought before the last Brussels Congress. It may be that this year will witness the realisation of this plan.
ERNEST MAHAIM (Translated by C. A. FOLEY.)
WAGES IN THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE The Bulletin of the Department of Labor, Washington, No. 18, September, 1898, contains an account of wages paid in twelve of the principal cities of the States, in Paris, in Liége, and in London, Manchester, and Glasgow. The figures given are interesting in themselves and may also afford useful comparisons with those I estimated for the December number of the ECONOMIC JOURNAL, 1898.
The wages stated in the Bulletin are in most instances taken directly from the pay rolls of two firms, who have continually carried on business since 1870, in each city and industry concerned, and arise, therefore, from different sources and are tabulated on different principles from those I employed. They also cover a very much more limited field of industry, for they are confined to the twenty-five specific occupations, which are most easy to define, and relate exclusively to town rates of wages. Even of these twenty-five occupations, only thirteen appear throughout the period in the returns from Great Britain and Liége, and twenty-one from Paris. It cannot, therefore, be expected that the figures will represent closely the general change in average wages in the countries, or even cities concerned, or will throw light on the relative heights of average wages in any specified year.
If it is found that where the figures in the two estimates may be expected to agree closely, as is particularly the case in the building trades where the rates of change in the towns have been nearly equal to those in the country at large, and with compositors, who are chiefly to be found in the towns in question, we may then proceed with confidence to examine the figures where they disagree, expecting that the apparent discrepancies are due to the facts of the case, not to the errors of the estimates.
The tables on pages 138 and 139 brings the different estimates into close relation.
It can hardly be said that the general agreement between these figures is close. The most marked divergencies are between 1870 and 1877, a period of very rapid fluctuation, differing greatly from trade to trade and town to town, where a slight change in date would materially affect the percentage figure obtained. The occupations selected in the Bulletin are, moreover, those which are not greatly influenced by fluctuations in trade, for even in the iron trades, the wages given are chiefly time rates.
It is easy to analyse the divergency, 1870–77, in the case of compositors; the rise shown in the Bulletin figures is due to a great increase in Manchester and Glasgow, while in London the rate remains unchanged. In this case the average of the three towns is not typical of the country at large.
In the building trades the agreement between the estimates for Paris, and between those for England is fairly close in both cases. In the general course of wages, the series of years 1870, 1877, 1880, 1883, 1886, have closely corresponding figures throughout, for the apparent difference is due to the rise between 1886 and 1891, which is not registered in any of the Bulletin average figures for the very good reason that it took place chiefly in the textile and mining industries not there represented. It is thus fairly easy to give reasons for the discrepancies in these estimates, without necessarily throwing doubt on the accuracy of any of them.
That the investigations in America have not been sufficiently varied or complete to furnish general averages may be seen by comparing the figures now given for the building trades with those arising from the Senate Report of 1893, which covered a wider area, as is done in the second table above; whereas the Bulletin shows a rise of 20 per cent. between 1874 and 1891, the Senate Report showed only 12 per cent.
It is true that the Bulletin does not profess to give any general average, but expressly proclaims that it contains only the somewhat barren information that the wages were as stated in each of the cities