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the subsidiary employment; but the effect to the labourers of having this additional resource, is almost certain to be (unless peculiar counteracting causes intervene) a proportional diminution of the wages of their main occupation. The habits of the people (as has already been so often remarked) everywhere require some particular scale of living, and no more, as the condition without which they will not bring up a family. Whether the income which maintains them in this condition comes from one source or from two, makes no difference: if there is a second source of income, they require less from the first; and multiply (at least this has always hitherto been the case) to a point which leaves them no more from both employments, than they would probably have had from either if it had been their sole occupation.
For the same reason it is found that, cceteris paribus, those trades are generally the worst paid, in which the wife and children of the artizan aid in the work. The income which the habits of the class demand, and down to which they are almost sure to multiply, is made up, in those trades, by the earnings of the whole family, while in others the same income must be attained by the labour of the man alone. It is even probable that their collective earnings will amount to a smaller sum than those of the man alone in other trades; because the prudential restraint on marriage is unusually weak when the only consequence immediately felt is an improvement of circumstances, the joint earnings of the two going further in their domestic economy after marriage than before. Such accordingly is the fact, in the case of handloom weavers. In most kinds of weaving, women can and do earn as much as men, and children are employed at a very early age; but the aggregate earnings of a family are lower than in almost any other kind of industry, and the marriages earlier. It is noticeable also that there are certain branches of handloom weaving in which wages are much above the rate common in the trade, and that these are the branches in which neither women nor young persons are employed. These facts were authenticated by the inquiries of the Handloom Weavers Commission, which made its report in 1841. l No argument can be hence derived for the exclusion of women from the liberty of competing in the labour market: since, even when no more is earned
lation, and they consume a greater quantity of cotton per inhabitant than
I either France or England. 8ee the Statistical Account of Zurich formerly cited, pp. 105, 108, 110.
1 [The first and third of the following sentences were added in the 3rd ed. (1852); the second was inserted in the 6th ed. (1865).]
by the labour of a man and a woman than would have been earned by the man alone, the advantage to the woman of not depending on a master for subsistence may be more than an equivalent. It cannot, however, be considered desirable as a permanent element in the condition of a labouring class, that the mother of the family (the case of a single woman is totally different) should be under the necessity of working for subsistence, at least elsewhere than in their place of abode. In the case of children, who are necessarily dependent, the influence of their competition in depressing the labour market is an important element in the question of limiting their labour, in order to provide better for their education.
§ 5. It deserves consideration, why the wages of women are generally lower, and very much lower, than those of men. They are not universally so. Where men and women work at the same employment, if it be one for which they are equally fitted in point of physical power, they are not always unequally paid.1 Women, in factories, sometimes3 earn as much as men; and so they do in handloom weaving, which, being paid by the piece, brings their efficiency to a sure test. When the efficiency is equal, but the pay unequal, the only explanation that can be given is custom; grounded either in a prejudice, or in the present constitution of society, which, making almost every woman, socially speaking, an appendage of some man, enables men to take systematically the lion's share of whatever belongs to both.3 But the principal question relates to the peculiar employments of women. The remuneration of these is always, I believe, greatly below that of employments of equal skill and equal disagreeaj^leness, carried on by men. In some of these cases the explanation is evidently that already given: as in the case of domestic servants, whose wages, speaking generally, are not determined by competition, but are greatly in excess of the market value of the labour, and in this excess, as in almost all things which are regulated by custom, the male sex obtains by far the largest share. In the occupations in which employers take full
1 [So from the 3rd ed. (1852). The original text ran: "it does not appear that they are in general unequally paid."]
2 [*' Sometimes" added in the 3rd ed.]
3 [Here the following passage was omitted from the 3rd ed.: "When an employment (as is the case with many trades) is divided into several parts, of some of which men alone are considered capable, while women or children are employed in the others, it is natural that those who cannot be dispensed with, should be able to make better terms for themselves than those who can."]
advantage of competition, the low wages of women as compared with the ordinary earnings of men are a proof that the employments are overstocked: that although so much smaller a number of women, than of men, support themselves by wages, the occupations which law and usage make accessible to them are comparatively so few, that the field of their employment is still more overcrowded. It must be observed, that as matters now stand, a sufficient degree of overcrowding may depress the wages of women to a much lower minimum than those of men. The wages, at least of single women, must be equal to their support, but need not be more than equal to it; the minimum, in their case, is the pittance absolutely requisite for the sustenance of one human being. Now the lowest point to which the most superabundant competition can permanently depress the wages of a man is always somewhat more than this. Where the wife of a labouring man does not by general custom contribute to his earnings, the man's wages must be at least sufficient to support himself, a wife, and a number of children adequate to keep up the population, since if it were less the population would not be kept up. And even if the wife earns something, their joint wages must be sufficient not only to support themselves, but (at least for some years) their children also. The ne plus ultra of low wages, therefore (except during some transitory crisis, or in some decaying employment), can hardly occur in any occupation which the person employed has to live by, except the occupations of women.
§ 6. Thus far, we have, throughout this discussion, proceeded on the supposition that competition is free, so far as regards human interference; being limited only by natural causes, or by the unintended effect of general social circumstances. But law or custom may interfere to limit competition. If apprentice laws, or the regulations of corporate bodies, make the access to a particular employment slow, costly, or difficult, the wages of that employment may be keptmuch above their natural proportion to the wages of common labour. They might be so kept without any assignable limit, were it not that wages which exceed the usual rate require corresponding prices, and that there is a limit to the price at which even a restricted number of producers can dispose of all they produce. In most civilized countries, the restrictions of this kind which once existed have been either abolished or very much relaxed, and will, no doubt, soon disappear entirely. In some trades, however, and to some extent, the combinations of workmen produce a similar effect. Those combinations always fail to uphold wages at an artificial rate, unless they also limit the number of competitors. But they do occasionally succeed in accomplishing this. In several trades the workmen have been able to make it almost impracticable for strangers to obtain admission either as journeymen or as apprentices, except in limited numbers, and under such restrictions as they choose to impose. It was given in evidence to the Handloom Weavers Commission, that this is one of the hardships which aggravate the grievous condition of that depressed class. Their own employment is overstocked and almost ruined; but there are many other trades which it would not be difficult for them to learn: to this, however, the combinations of workmen in those other trades are said to interpose an obstacle hitherto insurmountable.
Notwithstanding, however, the cruel manner in which the exclusive principle of these combinations operates in a case of this peculiar nature, the question, whether they are on the whole more useful or mischievous, requires to be decided on an enlarged consideration of consequences, among which such a fact as this is not one of the most important items. Putting aside the atrocities sometimes committed by workmen in the way of personal outrage or intimidation, which cannot be too rigidly repressed; if the present state of the general habits of the people were to remain for ever unimproved, these partial combinations, in so far as they do succeed in keeping up the wages of any trade by limiting its numbers, might be looked upon as simply intrenching around a particular spot against the inroads of over-population, and making the wages of the class depend upon their own rate of increase, instead of depending on that of a more reckless and improvident class than themselves. What at first sight seems the injustice of excluding the more numerous body from sharing the gains of a comparatively few, disappears when we consider that by being admitted they would not be made better off, for more than a short time; the only permanent effect which their admission would produce, would be to lower the others to their own level. To what extent the force of this consideration is annulled when a tendency commences towards diminished over-crowding in the labouring classes generally, and what grounds of a different nature there may be for regarding the existence of trade combinations as rather to be desired than deprecated, will be considered in a subsequent chapter of this work with the subject of Combination Laws.1
§ 7. To conclude this subject, I must repeat an observation already made, that there are kinds of labour of which the wages are fixed by custom, and not by competition. Such are the fees or
1 [The present text of this paragraph dates from the 5th ed. (1862). In the original of 1848 it ran, after the words "this peculiar nature ": "I find it impossible to wish, in the present state of the general habits of the people, that no such combinations existed. Acts of atrocity are sometimes committed by them, in the way . . . repressed: and even their legitimate liberty of refusing to work unless their own terms are conceded to them, they not unfrequently exercise in an injudicious, unenlightened manner, ultimately very injurious to themselves. But in so far as they do succeed in keeping up the wages of any trade by limiting its numbers, I look upon them as simply intrenching . . . themselves. And I should rejoice if by trade regulations, or even by trades unions, the employments thus specially protected could be multiplied to a much greater extent than experience has shown to be practicable. What at first sight seems the injustice . . . level. If indeed the general mass of the people were so improved in their standard of living, as not to press closer against the means of employment than those trades do; if, in other words, there were no greater degree of overcrowding outside the barrier, than within it—there would be no need of a barrier, and if it had any effects at all, they must be bad ones; but in that case the barrier would fall of itself, since there would no longer be any motive for keeping it up. On similar grounds, if there were no other escape from that fatal immigration of Irish, which has done and is doing so much to degrade the condition of our agricultural, and some classes of our town population, I should see no injustice, and the greatest possible expediency, in checking that destructive inroad by prohibitive laws. But there is a better mode of putting an end to this mischief, namely, by improving the condition of the Irish themselves; and England owes an atonement to Ireland for past injuries, which she ought to suffer almost any inconvenience rather than fail to make good, by using her power in as determined a manner for the elevation of that unfortunate people, as she used it through so many dreary centuries for their abasement and oppression."
In the 3rd ed. (1852) this was replaced by the following (which appeared also in the 4th (1857)): " their existence, it is probable, has, in time past, produced more good than evil. Putting aside the atrocities sometimes committed by them, in the way . . . themselves. The time, however, is past when the friends of human improvement can look with complacency on the attempts of small sections of the community, whether belonging to the labouring or any other class, to organize a separate class interest in antagonism to the general body of labourers, and to protect that interest by shutting out, even if only by a moral compulsion, all competitors from their more highly paid department. The mass of the people are no longer to be thrown out of the account, as too hopelessly brutal to be capable of benefiting themselves by any opening made for them, and sure only, if admitted into competition, to lower others to their own level. The aim of all efforts should now be, not to keep up the monopoly of separate knots of labourers against the rest, but to raise the moral state and social condition of the whole body; and of this it is an indispensable part that no one should be excluded from the superior advantages of any skilled employment, who has intelligence enough to learn it, and honesty enough to be entrusted with it."]