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in 1913 the average wage for all males in the trade was 47s. 1d. ($11.44), while for all females it was 22s. 2d. ($5.38), it is easy to see what the tendency in the trade would be.
The displacement of men by women is not, however, the usual thing. Displacement of women by men is more likely to be the result of determinations which aim at the establishment of standard rates and which under the pretense of equity fix the same rates for women as for men. One of the inspectors in Victoria in 1903 reported that the effect of the board's determination in the leather goods' trade, which established the same rate for hand sewing (45s. [$10.93]) for women as for men, was likely to cause the women who for years had been doing a portion of this work to lose their employment. Apparently in this case the board itself altered the rate for women, for the highest minimum rate for any class of female workers is now only 25s. ($6.06), while for men it is more than double that amount, 55s. ($13.36).2
A notable example of a direct effort to exclude women from a given occupation is furnished in the boot trade. The work of skiving the leather uppers had been done by women on the Amazeen machine; that for soles on the Scott machine run by men. A machine called the Fortuna was introduced which could do the skiving for both uppers and soles. The work on this machine could be done by women and required very little muscular power. The representatives of the men on the Boot Board in Victoria argued that the rates should be fixed the same for women as for men but to this the chairman could not consent. large employers came to the conclusion that it would be
However, some of the
1 Report of Chief Inspector for 1903, p. 20.
2 Report for 1913, pp. 95-96.
to their interest to have men do this work and they accordingly brought pressure on their own representatives, with the result that some of them went over to the side of the men and voted to establish equal rates for men and women for operating this machine. A New South Wales Board was asked by the workers to make the same award but refused to do so and when the case was appealed to the Arbitration Court, Mr. Justice Heydon held that this "was a claim by the men, for the men, that a wage should be imposed upon the women that would shut them out, and the women were not heard upon it." He would not agree to this.1
A more recent attempt to exclude the women was shown in connection with the first determination made by the Commercial Clerks' Board. Equal wages (48s. [$11.66] per week) were fixed for men and women by the board, but the women clerks, who had but one representative on the board, took an appeal to the Court of Industrial Appeals on the ground that equality of wages would drive them out of employment. The Court upheld their appeal and reduced the minimum wage for female cashiers in shops to 28s. ($6.79) per week and for all others to 32s. ($7.76), while the minimum wage for men was left at 48s.2
In some trades the effect of the establishment of a minimum wage for adults has been to increase the number of juvenile workers in the trade. This appears to have been the case in the underclothing trade in Victoria from the time of the first determination. The removal of the restriction on the number of apprentices in 1903 greatly increased the tendency to employ juvenile labor, and both the number and percentage of
1 New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Reports, 1911, p. 589.
• Report of Chief Inspector for 1913, pp. 60–61. See also Piddington Report, p. xxxix.
Report of the Chief Inspector for 1899, pp. 12–13.
apprentices showed a great increase in several trades 1 during the years that this limitation on the power of the boards to fix the number and proportion of apprentices continued.
Still another and very troublesome form of displacement of labor for which the wages boards seem partially responsible is the substitution of Chinese workmen in the furniture trade for Europeans. The unpopularity of the Chinese and the fear that they would seek to control wages boards in their own interest led Parliament to provide for the appointment rather than the election of the wages board members in the furniture trade. This left the Chinese without representation on the board. The board declined to establish piecework rates and fixed the minimum wage first at 7s. 6d. a day and subsequently raised it to 8s. a day. Many of the Chinese could not earn the minimum wage, and in fixing the minimum so high it had undoubtedly been the intention of the board to exclude Chinese competition. Directly the opposite result was accomplished. The Chinese workers who would have been driven out of the trade entered into collusion with their employers to evade the law and to furnish no evidence as to the real wages paid. Many new shops with from one to three workmen apiece began business, and when the inspectors questioned them in regard to the wages paid they either claimed that wages above the minimum were being paid and offered their books in evidence or they said "Alle same company," or "We alle same share um plofits" or gave some other evasive answer.
The result was that while the number of European workers in the furniture trade declined from 1,103 in 1899 to 989 in 1907, the Chinese increased during the
1 Report for 1904, pp. 18-19, 36-37; 1905, p. 17.
2 Report of Chief Inspector for 1897, p. 11.
same years from 488 to 565.1 Since then, however, the Europeans have shown some increase, while the Chinese have hardly held their own. The inspectors make no concealment of the fact, however, that they are unable to enforce the determination of the wages board upon the Chinese, and the whole affair affords, as Mr. Ord said "a clear instance of how powerless laws are for the imposition of a minimum wage so soon as such wage is opposed to the interest of the majority of the employers and employees." 2
Our conclusion with reference to the whole matter of displacement of certain classes of workers must be that the minimum wage, like any other economic change, of necessity compels some readjustment of industrial conditions. To make the readjustment employers will be likely to seek to economize on that portion of the labor force which on the new wage scale would be likely to yield them the least profit. This may mean a displacement of men unable to earn the minimum by those able to earn much above the minimum, or it may mean a substitution of juvenile labor for adult labor or of women for men.
The displacement will be all the greater if machinery can be substituted for labor. The displacement will be much greater at the time when the determination is introduced. If changes in wages are not made too rapidly or violently the displacement may be hardly noticeable, especially if there is no keen outside competition.
1 Reports of Royal Commission of 1902-03, p. 6, and of Chief Inspector for 1907, p. 77.
2 Report of Chief Inspector for 1897, p. 10.
4. Effects on Industry and Industrial Growth
In industrial matters, as is well known, it is usually impossible to single out one from a number of causes, and, by pointing to certain results, declare with certainty that these have been due to the cause designated. The statement holds as true of wages boards in Australia as it does of any legislative experiment in any country. Undoubtedly a mode of wage regulation as radical as that of a legally established minimum wage would have important consequences in industrial development. It is equally true that in Victoria as in other wages board states important industrial changes have taken place in recent years. To say, however, that these changes have been due to wages boards and to wages boards alone requires a degree of confidence in one's own judgment which is fortunately lacking in most trained investigators.
One thing can be said with absolute assurance; the direful predictions made in the Victorian Parliament at the time the wages board legislation was up for consideration, as to the loss of trade, the increase of unemployment and the ruin of industries, which would follow, have not been fulfilled. How much greater (or
less) would have been industrial development in this state without this legislation we have no means of knowing, but that there has been a rapid and almost steady increase in the number of factories and of employees is demonstrated by the statistics. In 1896, when the first wages boards were authorized, the number of factories registered in Victoria was 3,370 and there were employed therein 40,814 persons, which was a number but little in excess of the employees in factories ten years before. Every year since 1896 has seen an increase over the preceding year in the number of fac