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DIGEST OF RECENT FOREIGN STATISTICAL PUBLICATIONS,
Les Moteurs Électriques dans les Industries à Domicile: 1. L'Industrie
Horlogère Suisse; II. Le Tissage de la Soie à Lyon; III. L'Industrie de la Rubanerie à St. Étienne. Rapport présenté à M. le Ministre de l'Industrie et du Travail par MM. E. Dubois et A. Julin, 1902.
This report was made by Prof. Ernest Dubois, of the University of Ghent, and M. Armand Julin, division chief of the Belgian labor bureau, who were appointed by the Belgian minister of industry and labor as a committee to make an investigation into the economic effects of the introduction of the electric motor on domestic or cottage industries. In the report an effort has been made, first, to present the economic results of the introduction of the electric motor, and second, to discover whether, in the domestic industries investigated, the introduction of machinery moved by electric power tends to prevent or retard the progress of the concentration of industry in factories.
The industries investigated were watchmaking in Switzerland, silk weaving in Lyon, France, and ribbon weaving in St. Etienne, France.
THE WATCHMAKING INDUSTRY.—The report on the conditions in the Swiss watchmaking industry gives an account of the growth and organization of the industry from its beginning in 1587 to the present time. The making of the watch was at first all done by one person, then the usual course of specialization followed. A series of specialized occupations first sprang up, and was later followed by a geographical specialization, in which the workmen engaged in the making of each special part of the watch congregated in certain localities. The products of these domestic workers were purchased by the merchant watchmakers, who finished and adjusted the rough movements. This method of production still employs a large proportion of the persons engaged in the industry.
The first factory for the manufacture of watches was established in 1804; it made use of 19 different machines and produced several grades of movements. In 1834 the first watches with interchangeable parts were manufactured. Since that time the factory, under the stimulus of the competition of the American factory-made watch, has steadily improved its processes, and has each year absorbed a larger proportion of the field and correspondingly lessened the opportunities of the domestic worker. As a result, the condition of the latter class has become so depressed that measures for its relief have become the subject of general discussion. In the hope of placing the domestic worker on a level with the factory, the plan of providing him with mechanical motive power in the shape of electric motors has been adopted. The problem of securing electric power is fortunately not a difficult one in Switzerland, where there is a large amount of water power available. In many cases the communes have established plants for the production of electric power, and have adopted rates for small motor service which are intended to be well within the means of the domestic workers. The following table shows the tariffs in force in several localities. The plants at Chaux-de-Fonds, Locle, and Fleurier belong to the communes; that at St. Imier belongs to a stock company.
RATES PER ANNUM FOR ELECTRIC-MOTOR SERVICE IN 4 COMMUNES OF SWITZERLAND.
a Renters of power in these classes receive a discount of 25 per cent on agreement to use no power during lighting hours, b Power not to be used during lighting hours. c For horsepower. d For horsepower.
In the first two localities power in excess of the number of hours contracted for may be used on the payment of a pro rata sum.
In Fleurier contracts for motors of two horsepower or less, to be used only outside of lighting hours, may be made on the basis of 20 centimes ($0.0386) per horsepower per hour, no contract being made for less than 750 hours.
In spite of all efforts, the small motor has not found an extensive use among the domestic workers. The expense of installation and of changing tools is usually too heavy for the limited means of this class of producers. Many of them have but little use for power in the manufacture of their specialties, but the reason assigned as the principal one is the lack of interest on the part of the workmen themselves.
THE SILK INDUSTRY.-The establishment of the silk industry at Lyon by Italian weavers in the sixteenth century was followed in the two succeeding centuries by a specialization in the direction of the weaving of figured silks and rich cloths of gold and silver. The ability to weave such fabrics required a long apprenticeship and special technical knowledge. The demand for them, being subject to changing fashions, was very irregular, and this irregularity and the resulting frequent depressions of the industry have been characteristic of silk weaving in Lyon up to the present time.
During the early part of the last century considerable numbers of weavers moved into the rural districts, employing themselves for a portion of the time at agriculture, and accepting orders for the weaving of the lighter and cheaperógrades of goods at prices less than the city weavers could afford. The efforts of the city weavers to enforce their higher charges led to the turning of orders for the better grades of goods to the country weavers, until now the number of looms in the country far exceeds those in the city. The relative size of the two groups and the number of looms in factories appear from an enumeration made in 1900, which found in the large factories 30,600 looms; in domestic use in the rural districts, 47,000 looms, and in domestic use in the city, 8,600 looms. In 1856 there were about 35,000 looms employed in the city in domestic weaving.
Factory competition bas caused depression among domestic weavers in both city and country of late years, and efforts have been made to ameliorate their condition. One of these was made in 1895 by a society which arranged with an electric power company to furnish power for 75 francs ($14.48) per year for each loom, the service not to exceed 250 hours per month. Added hours may be arranged for, however, on the basis of a pro rata payment. As the hand looms could not be altered to meet the requirements of the new motive force, new equipment throughout was found necessary, and to meet this expense the society loaned money without interest. By this means it has assisted in installing 300 looms for silk weaving in addition to 200 looms for other kinds of weaving. The hand looms in Lyon still number more than 8,000, about half of which are fully employed.
Though it is as yet too early to state precisely what are the results of the use of the electric motor in the domestic shops of this industry, the system has been in use long enough for two facts to have become evident. First, employment under the new system is more regular and continuous, owing to the fact that the weaver is able to accept orders for the making of staple goods for which there is a steady demand, instead of confining himself to the special Lyon goods for which the demand is irregular. An unexpected result of this fact has been that the weavers show a tendency to devote themselves entirely to the production of these cheaper grades of goods and avoid taking orders for the higher grades. The second fact is that there is an increase in the earnings of the weaver; the writers of the report estimate that the average annual earnings of a weaver with two hand looms are about 800 francs ($154.40); with two power looms the authors estimate his earnings at 1,500 francs ($289.50). The result of the introduction of the electric motor would be satisfactory were it
not for the tendency of the weaver to become a competitor of the factory, instead of continuing to produce those grades of silks which require special artistic and technical skill. This difficulty is one of the serious problems which confront those endeavoring to place the domestic workers on a sound economic basis.
THE RIBBON INDUSTRY.— The ribbon industry of St. Étienne established early in the seventeenth century and soon developed into the typical domestic form. Since the use of ribbon is almost entirely regulated by fashion, the demand for it has always been extremely irregular. The history of the ribbon industry has been a series of fluctuations between periods of feverish activity when ribbons were in vogue and periods of ruinous depression when the contrary held true. In most of its features the history of the ribbon industry has been not unlike that of the Lyon silk industry. Owing to the irregular demand for the product the factory has not developed to any great extent, and the industry is practically controlled by the domestic producers. In 1896 the number of ribbon looms in use in the domestic shops was about 25,000, of which about 1,200 were power looms; the number of looms in use in the factories was about 6,000.
The ribbon hand loom is of such construction that it can be altered for the use of mechanical motive power at slight expense, and in its altered form can be used to produce the same class of goods. The problem of changing from hand to power weaving is, therefore, not such a serious one for the domestic weaver of ribbon as it is for the Lyon silk weaver. The power is secured from a stock company which supplies electricity to the town, and makes a special effort to furnish power in the form needed by the domestic weaver operating two or three looms. The minimum charge for each loom is 7.50 francs ($1.45) per month; if the motor is rented from the company a rental of 1 franc ($0.193) per month is charged. Hence for a shop containing three looms driven by a rented motor the monthly charges would be 3 francs ($0.579) for rent of motor, and 22.50 francs ($4.34) for power, or a total of 25.50 franes ($4.92) per month. At this rate the daily charge would be 1.02 francs ($0.197). The company reported that 3,120 domestic ribbon weavers, using about 7,000 looms, were subscribing for power, October 1, 1901.
CONCLUSIONS.-Of the three domestic industries under discussion, the ribbon industry offers the largest possibility of introducing the electric motor. The Swiss watchmaking industry is changing its old organization to that of the factory in order to meet the American competition. It has now adopted the system of factory production with elaborate machinery and extended division of labor. Under these conditions the domestic production has steadily declined in importance. It has had recourse to the manufacture of detached pieces and is now a system of assemblage of parts produced under conditions which do not admit of a general use of the electric motor. The Lyon silk-weaving industry is a domestic industry in its decadence. If the demand of the public were for the high-grade goods which require special skill to produce, there would be reason to hope for the continued existence of the domestic weaver, but present conditions show an opposite tendency. In the case of the ribbon-weaving industry, however, so long as the demand for the product is constantly changing, requiring different shapes and sizes for each season, and especially so long as the demand in general varies so greatly, it is probable that the domestic weaver will control the industry.
The employment of the electric motor reduces the physical strain on the workman and allows the use of cheaper grades of labor, such as that of women, children, old men, etc. Without doubt the motor increases the production of the lathe or loom and increases the net income from each machine, but even with the aid of the electric motor there is little probability of the domestic workshop ever superseding the factory. The advantages of an elaborate division of labor and of continuity in production are lost in such a small shop, while the incessant improvement of machinery requiring constant expenditure for more efficient apparatus imposes a burden too heavy for the resources of any but those possessing large amounts of capital.
NEW SOUTH WALES.
First Annual Report of the Labor Commissioners of New South Wales,
covering the period ending August 31, 1901. 60 pp.
By an order of the governor bearing date of May 8, 1900, a labor commission was appointed to provide work for the unemployed, succeeding other agencies, and under the above title they present their first report. The duties of the commission are to organize and control all labor of both sexes not in employment and to assist the unemployed in securing situations. The work was begun under the minister for labor and industry, but was later transferred to the department of public works, as it was largely in connection with this deparment that employment was given. While private employers availed themselves to some extent of the services of the commission, the report is mainly an account of the methods and results of various undertakings of a public nature.
A card system of registration is used, the men being classified according to their own preferences, then according to their capacity as determined by an inspection, and lastly, after an assignment of work has been completed, on the basis of reports furnished by a foreman or officer in charge of the work. Branch offices are maintained