Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/22

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12
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Reduction in the Hours of Labor.—Concurrently with, the general increase in recent years in the amount and purchasing power of moneywages throughout the civilized world, the hours of labor have been also generally reduced. In the case of Great Britain, Mr. Giffen is of the opinion that the reduction during the last fifty years in the textile, house-building, and engineering trades has been at least 20 per cent, and that the British workman now gets from 50 to 100 per cent more money for 20 per cent less work.

In the United States, the data afforded by the census returns of 1880 indicate that in 1830, 81.1 per cent of the recipients of regular wages worked in excess of ten hours per day; but for 1880, the number so working was about 26.5 per cent. In 1830, 13.5 per cent worked in excess of thirteen hours; but in 1880 this ratio had been reduced to 2.5. For the entire country the most common number of hours constituting a day's labor in 1880 was ten.[1]

That the conclusions of Mr. Giffen respecting the general effect in Great Britain of the increase in wages and reduction in the hours of labor, as above stated, find a correspondence in the United States, might, if space permitted, be shown by a great amount and variety of testimony. A single example—drawn from the experience of the lowest class of labor—is, however, especially worthy of record. In 1860, before the war, the average amount of work expected of spade-laborers on the western divisions of the Erie Canal, in the State of New York, was five cubic yards of earth excavation for each man per day; and for this work the average wages were seventy-five cents per day. At the present time the average daily excavation of each man employed on precisely the same kind of work, and on the same canal, is

  1. The results of an investigation recently instituted by the Prussian Government in consequence of a demand made for an absolute prohibition of Sunday labor in business occupations in that country, have revealed a curious and apparently an unexpected condition of public sentiment on the subject: Thus from returns obtained from thirty out of thirty-five provinces or departments, containing 500,156 manufacturing establishments and 1,582,591 workmen, it was found that 57-75 per cent of the factories kept at work on Sunday. On the other hand, the larger number of the workmen, or 919,664, rested on Sunday. As regards trade and transportation, it was found that in twenty nine provinces (out of thirty-five), of 147,318 establishments of one sort or another, employing 245,061 persons, 77 per cent were open on Sunday, and 57 per cent of the employes worked on that day. A canvass of the persons naturally most interested in the matter—i.e., the employés showed, however, that only a comparatively small number were in favor of the proposed measure. Thus, for example, of those who were consulted in the great factories or stores, only 13 per cent of the employers and 18 per cent of the employed were in favor of total prohibition. In the smaller industries the proportion was 18 per cent of the employers and 21 per cent of the employed. In trade only 41 per cent of the employers and 39 per cent of the employed, and in transportation only 12 per cent of the employers and 16 per cent of the employed, were in favor of total prohibition.