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CHAPTER XIV.

OF THE DIFFERENCES OF WAGES IN DIFFERENT
EMPLOYMENTS.

§ 1. IN treating of wages, we have hitherto confined ourselves to the causes which operate on them generally, and en masse; the laws which govern the remuneration of ordinary or average labour: without reference to the existence of different kinds of work which are habitually paid at different rates, depending in some degree on different laws. We will now take into consideration these differences, and examine in what manner they affect or are affected by the conclusions already established.

A well-known and very popular chapter of Adam Smith.” contains the best exposition yet given of this portion of the subject. I cannot indeed think his treatment so complete and exhaustive as it has sometimes been considered ; but as far as it goes, his analysis is tolerably successful.

The differences, he says, arise partly from the policy of Europe, which nowhere leaves things at perfect liberty, and partly “from certain circumstances in the employments themselves, which either really, or at least in the imaginations of men, make up for a small pecuniary gain in some, and counterbalance a great one in others.” These circumstances he considers to be: “First, the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves; secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning them; thirdly, the constancy or inconstancy of employ

Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 10.

ment in them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them; and fifthly, the probability or improbability of success in them.” Several of these points he has very copiously illustrated: though his examples are sometimes drawn from a state of facts now no longer existing. “The wages of labour vary with the ease or hardship, the cleanliness or dirtiness, the honourableness or dishonourableness of the employment. Thus, in most places, take the year round, a journeyman tailor earns less than a journeyman weaver. IIis work is much easier.” Things have much altered, as to a weaver's remuneration, since Adam Smith's time; and the artizan whose work was more difficult than that of a tailor, can never, I think, have been the common weaver. “A journeyman weaver earns less than a journeyman Smith. IIis work is not always easier, but it is much cleanlier.” A more probable explanation is, that it requires less bodily strength. “A journeyman blacksmith, though an artificer, seldom earns so much in twelve hours as a collier, who is only a labourer, does in eight. His work is not quite so dirty, is less dangerous, and is carried on in daylight, and above ground. Honour makes a great part of the reward of all honourable professions. In point of pecuniary gain, all things considered,” their recompense is, in his opinion, below the average. “Disgrace has the contrary effect. The trade of a butcher is a brutal and an odious business; but it is in most places more profitable than the greater part of common trades. The most detestable of all employments, that of public executioner, is, in proportion to the quantity of work done, better paid than any common trade whatever.” o One of the causes which make hand-loom weavers cling to their occupation in spite of the scanty remuneration which it now yields, is said to be a peculiar attractiveness, arising from the freedom of action which it allows to the workman. “He can play or idle,” says a recent authority,” “as feeling or inclination lead him; rise early or late, apply himself assiduously or carelessly, as he pleases, and work up at any time, by increased exertion, hours previously sacrificed to indulgence or recreation. There is scarcely another condition of any portion of our working population thus free from external control. The factory operative is not only mulcted of his wages for absence, but, if of frequent occurrence, discharged altogether from his employment. The bricklayer, the carpenter, the painter, the joiner, the stonemason, the outdoor labourer, have each their appointed daily hours of labour, a disregard of which would lead to the same result.” Accordingly, “the weaver will stand by his loom while it will enable him to exist, however miserably; and many, induced temporarily to quit it, have returned to it again, when work was to be had.” “Employment is much more constant,” continues Adam Smith, “in some trades than in others. In the greater part of manufactures, a journeyman may be pretty sure of employment almost every day in the year that he is able to work” (the interruptions of business arising from overstocked markets, or from a suspension of demand, or from a commercial crisis, must be excepted). “A mason or bricklayer, on the contrary, can work neither in hard frost nor in foul weather, and his employment at all other times depends upon the occasional calls of his customers. He is liable, in consequence, to be frequently without any. What he earns, therefore, while he is employed, must not only maintain him while he is idle, but make him some compensation for those anxious and desponding moments which the thought of so precarious a situation must sometimes occasion. When the computed earnings of the greater part of manufacturers, accordingly, are nearly upon a level with the day wages of common labourers, those of masons and bricklayers are generally from one-half more to double those wages. . No species of skilled labour, however, seems more easy to learn than that of masons and bricklayers. The high wages of those workmen, therefore, are not so much

* Mr. Muggeridge's Report to the Handloom Weavers' Inquiry Commission.

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the recompense of their skill, as the compensation for the inconstancy of their employment. “When the inconstancy of the employment is combined with the hardship, disagreeableness, and dirtiness of the work, it sometimes raises the wages of the most common labour above those of the most skilful artificers. A collier working by the piece is supposed, at Newcastle, to earn commonly about double, and in many parts of Scotland about three times, the wages of common labour. II is high wages arise altogether from the hardship, disagreeableness, and dirtiness of his work. II is employment may, upon most occasions, be as constant as he pleases. The coalheavers in London exercise a trade which in hardship, dirtiness, and disagreeableness, almost equals that of colliers; and from the unavoidable irregularity in the arrivals of coalships, the employment of the greater part of them is necessarily very inconstant. If colliers, therefore, commonly earn double and triple the wages of common labour, it ought not to seem unreasonable that coal-heavers should sometimes earn four or five times those wages. In the inquiry made into their condition a few years ago, it was found that at the rate at which they were then paid, they could earn about four times the wages of common labour in London. IIow extravagant soever these earnings may appear, if they were more than sufficient to compensate all the disagreeable circumstances of the business, there would soon be so great a number of competitors as, in a trade which has no exclusive privilege, would quickly reduce them to a lower rate.” These inequalities of remuneration, which are supposed to compensate for the disagreeable circumstances of particular employments, would, under certain conditions, be natural consequences of perfectly free competition: and as between employments of about the same grade, and filled by nearly the same description of people, they are, no doubt, for the most part, realized in practice. But it is altogether a false view of the state of facts, to present this as the relation which generally exists between agreeable and disagreeable employments. The really exhausting and the really repulsive labours, instead of being better paid than others, are almost invariably paid the worst of all, because performed by those who have no choice. It would be otherwise in a favourable state of the general labour market. If the labourers in the aggregate, instead of exceeding, fell short of the amount of employment, work which was generally disliked would not be undertaken, except for more than ordinary wages. But when the supply of labour so far exceeds the demand that to find employment at all is an uncertainty, and to be offered it on any terms a favour, the case is totally the reverse. Desirable labourers, those whom everyone is anxious to have, can still exercise a choice. The undesirable must take what they can get. The more revolting the occupation, the more certain it is to receive the minimum of remuneration, because it devolves on the most helpless and degraded, on those who from squalid poverty, or from want of skill and education, are rejected from all other employments. Partly from this cause, and partly from the natural and artificial monopolies which will be spoken of presently, the inequalities of wages are generally in an opposite direction to the equitable principle of compensation erroneously represented by Adam Smith as the general law of the remuneration of labour. The hardships and the earnings, instead of being directly proportional, as in any just arrange. ments of society they would be, are generally in the inverse ratio, to one another. One of the points best illustrated by Adam Smith, is the influence exerised on the remuneration of an employment by the uncertainty of success in it. If the chances are great of total failure, the reward in case of success must be sufficient to make up, in the general estimation, for those adverse chances. Dut, owing to another principle of human nature, if the reward comes in the shape of a few great prizes, it usually attracts competitors in such numbers, that the average remuneration may be reduced not only to zero,

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