Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/18

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8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

time, have increased very nearly 100 per cent.[1] It is also conceded of this increase in Great Britain, that by far the largest proportion has occurred within the later years of this period, and has been concurrent with the larger introduction and use of machinery. Thus the investigations of Sir James Caird show that the advance in the average rate of wages for agricultural labor in England in the twenty-eight years between 1850 and 1878 was 45 per cent greater than the entire advance that took place in the eighty years next preceding 1850.

Mr. Giffen has also called attention to an exceedingly interesting and encouraging feature which has attended the recent improvement in money-wages in Great Britain—and which probably finds correspondence in other countries; and that is, that the tendency of the economic changes of the last fifty years has been not merely to augment the wages of the lowest class of labor, but also to reduce in a marked degree the proportion of this description of labor to the total mass—" its numbers having diminished on account of openings for labor in other directions. But this diminution has at the same time gone along with a steady improvement in the condition of the most unskilled laborers themselves." So that, if there had been no increase whatever in the average money-wages of Great Britain in recent years, the improvement in the general condition of the masses in that country "must have been enormous, for the simple reason that the population at the higher rate of wages has increased disproportionately to the others." But all this is only another way of proving that machinery always saves or minimizes the lowest and crudest kinds of labor. One of the most interesting and unquestionably one of the most accurate investigations respecting the change in wages since 1850, in the leading industries of Great Britain, was made in 1883 by Mr. George Lord, President of the Manchester (England) Chamber of Commerce. The results showed that the percentage increase in the average wages paid in eleven of the leading industries of that city between 1850 and 1883 was 40 per cent; the increase ranging from 10.30 per cent in mechanical engineering (fitters and turners) to 74.72 per cent in the case of other mechanics and in medium cotton spinning and weaving. In the United States, according to the data afforded by the census returns for 1850 and 1880, the average wages paid for the whole country increased

  1. This statement was first made by Mr. Giffen in 1883, in his inaugural address as President of the Royal Statistical Society of England, and was received with something of popular incredulity. But recurring to the same subject in another communication to the same society in 1886, Mr. Giffen asserts that further investigations show that there is no justification whatever for any doubts that may have been entertained as to the correctness of his assertions.