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issued since 1904 are subject to withdrawal. At the
end of each five years the Council may petition the
Crown for the reduction of the maximum number, as it
may for a modification of the reduction ; and it has


power, moreover, to determine that in certain streets
there shall be no licensed house.

The payment of workmen's wages on licensed
premises is forbidden. It is a criminal offence to sell or
serve drink, or even supply it free, at auctions or roups.
The Act nowhere defines what intoxicating liquor is, but
it distinguishes beer and wine from spirits, which may no
longer be sold in railway waiting-rooms. The cost of a
licence is calculated according to rental, locality, hours,
and the extent of the trade done in the house, and
all licensed premises are subject to inspection. No
person under sixteen years may enter upon them

The Council's powers, therefore, in respect of the
drink traffic are great ; and they extend also to the
regulation of the hours for opening and closing
licensed premises, which they may even order to
remain shut on particular occasions during licensed
hours ; and to the regulation of the employment of
women in them.

The public health of Holland, again, has been the
object of legislation in the Gezondheidswet of 1901, an
Act of an elaborate nature, both for inquiry and advice
and for administration. A Central Board, established
at Utrecht, comprises seven members, and half a hundred
extraordinary members, whose business it is to report
to the Minister of Home Affairs on the state of the
public health, and to offer suggestions for its improve-
ment. In each commune of over 18,000 inhabitants,
or combination of communes (as determined) up to
40,000, a commission of not fewer than five members
is appointed by the Commissary of the Queen, which
has the duty of making reports to the Central Board.
There are some 130 of these Commissions in the
country, and the whole system is linked up in four


head-inspectors, each with a district, to which are
attached four inspectors, two architects or engineers, a
pharmacist and a physician, whose duty, generally and
severally, is the supervision of housing, of the preparation
of medicines, the purity of food, contagious diseases, and
the hygiene of soil, water, and air.

Bound up with this general legislation for the public
health is that particularly for the improvement of
dwellings, comprised in the Woningwet of 1901. It
is of far-reaching consequences : one sees signs of its
working (not always beautiful, as too often is the case
with useful legislation) in new buildings all over the

The landlord of every inhabited dwelling must
report the number of rooms in it, and the number of
their occupants, and notify especially whether it contains
three or fewer rooms fit for habitation. This report is
made to the Council of the commune in which the
property is situated, and is passed on in time to the
Commission of Health referred to earlier. It lies next
with the Commission to report back to the Council such
improvements as seem to it to be necessary to render
inhabitable rooms habitable, and to relieve evident over-
crowding. Moreover, any three inhabitants of the
commune who are of age may make a representation
in regard to any property in it to the Council, which
thereupon must act as if the landlord himself had

When it is decided that a building is not habitable,
notice to quit it within six months (or in special cases
a year) is issued, and its condemnation is marked upon
the building itself. To the Council falls the ticklish
question of compensation. Further, the Council may
prohibit rebuilding on the site of the condemned house,
should its absorption be desirable in view of town's


improvement, in accordance with the " extension plan "
(revisable every ten years) with which each town of over
10,000 inhabitants has to provide itself. The Council,
indeed, has still greater powers. It may give assistance
to persons obliged to quit under its notice ; it has it at
its option to buy up property ; and it may build, claim-
ing an advance from the Treasury in doing so. And
under the Act, all societies recognised by Royal Decree
as existing exclusively for the amelioration of the people
in regard to housing, may receive a subsidy for their
work from the State, and from the commune, on con-
dition that the advance is refunded, or that the property
erected reverts to the commune, within fifty years.

From these examples of the work going on in the
eleven hundred and more gemeenten in Holland, the reader
can vivify his impression of its busy and well-ordered
life. The Dutchman, he will admit, though difficult
to move, achieves a considerable pace when he is set

It will have been gathered from a score of indications
that the drain upon the communal purse is severe. The
revenues are derived from property and rating. Some
of the lands are very valuable, but they lie chiefly in
rural communes. The rating powers will be exhibited
immediately ; I ought to note, however, that the Councils
cannot levy for libraries or museums, or, indeed, for any
special services except the opening up of roads and
streets. The debt of the communes at this moment is
considerably over thirty millions, and their relief, by a
delimination of boundaries and extension of State
taxation, is at present under the consideration of the

There is no more urgent public question in Holland
than Taxation, and none with a more direct interest for
Dutch homes. The last are not infrequently chosen in


view of it. A word foremen (probably from " foreigners ")
has been coined to denote those who, to escape its high
rates, live away from the city in which lies the source
of their incomes. In Amsterdam the number of these
is so high that posts in the city's service carry with
them the obligation to reside within it. The variation
in the communal taxes and their heavy burden in
Amsterdam is specially emphasised in the typical cases
with which I am to attempt to illustrate the whole

Taxes fall under these heads :

A. Capital or Wealth (yermogens belasting).

B. Occupation or Profession (bedryfs belasting].

C. Personal (personeele belasting}.

D. Land (grond belasting].
F. Dog (Jwnden}.

Of these, A and B together make up the national
income tax, and, with C and D, are State taxes. E
(known as hoofdelyken omslag or poll tax) and F are
communal taxes. Provincial taxes take the form of
surcharges on A and C.

In order to illustrate the incidence of these taxes, I
have had worked out for me by obliging hands the tax-
papers of two imaginary citizens of the same profession
and almost identical fortune and income. They are both
notaries, making 500 a year in their profession and
enjoying the revenues of an invested capital of 10,000.

The first lives in Amsterdam ; the second in , a

small provincial town with average taxable conditions.
Both keep two female servants, and the second, in
addition, has a coachman and a gardener.

I find it impossible to find room for the elaborate
working out of these taxes, which lies before me now,
but from the following general results the scheme



and burden of taxation in Holland discover them-
selves :


In .

In Amsterdam.

A. Capital tax .
B. Occupation tax
C. Poll tax
D. Land tax

Fl. 156-44

Fl. 165

39 9-I2


E. Income tax .
F. Doxtax

Fl. 409-20

Fl. 523-12

1 Subject to certain surcharges for the province and commune.

It appears, therefore, that the taxpayer in the provincial
town, with an income from all sources of 863, 6s. 8d.
and living in a house assessed at 2$, pays 80, 143. 5d.,
or 9 per cent, in rates and taxes (about 38 in rates
and 42 in taxes). The second taxpayer, with an
income of 850, but living in Amsterdam in a house
with an assessed value of 60 (which he owns), pays
105, 2s. 6d. in rates and taxes (about 63 in rates
and 39 in taxes), or nearly 1 1 per cent.


THE Dutch workman has a long day. His hours
of labour are fixed by law at a maximum of
eleven out of the twenty-four, and work may not begin
before five or continue after seven. But there are
modifications of this, different communes having (within
limits) different regulations. The trades put upon an
exceptional basis, agriculture being one, have by a recent
revision of legislation been reduced in number from
fourteen to seven. In the scheduled occupations,
employment on Sunday is prohibited. One of the
exciting questions before the Chambers at present is a
Baker's Law, which has been introduced to make work
in bakeries overnight or on Sundays illegal.

The hours vary in the cotton mills of Twente. In
one small town I found they ran from 7 to 1 2 and from
1.30 to 7, with twenty minutes for breakfast and half an
hour for tea. On Saturday work ceased at midday. A
week of 58 hours is probably most usual at Enschede,
where, however, there is in some factories a week of 63
hours still, work on Saturday not finishing in them
until 4.

In the small town of Goor referred to, the pay-sheets
in the net factory showed a variation of from los. lod.
to 2 is. 8d. The last, made on the newest machinery,
was exceptional. There were many entries at the lower


figures, from IDS. rod. to 135. 40!. ; the average wage is
probably about 2os. The skilled weavers in the district
make from 22s. to 245. ; the spinners sometimes as much
as 355. The wages of the children employed run from
43. 2d. to 6s. 8d. One of the employers told me he
found that they are paying Lancashire rates for labour.
He meant, I take it, for skilled labour (which is scarce),
and on the basis of the longer hours.

In the small town the workman can get a house for
is. per week; and 33., or from 7 to 8 a year, is the
rent of the best workmen's dwellings. In Enschede,
again, houses cost a little more, not much. Living is not
costly in Twente, but, as everywhere else, it goes up.
So, gradually, do wages, owing partly to interesting local
conditions. There is a scarcity of skilled labour. The
new line from Delden to Lochem has been carried
through (among other reasons) with a view of tapping an
isolated district for young workers. Goor already finds
the supply increased slightly, and hopes for more ; which
means that with opportunity the peasantry are tempted
off the land. But agriculture does not grow skilled
cotton-workers in a season.

Meanwhile there are still found in Goor the conditions
of an industrial town which has not grown beyond a
village, or quite beyond the relations between a working-
class and masters who have been their neighbours since
boyhood. There has never, I believe, been a strike
there. Different conditions are at once visible to the
observer in Enschede, where villas (of a somewhat vivid
type and variety, it happens) are springing up amid the
necessarily greater drabness of a larger population. Yet
Goor declares itself Socialist, no less than Enschede ;
and Enschede tempts away the Goor workers by the
offer of greater amusements at night, which, one
imagines, they have not much time to enjoy. And


Enschede, after all, is a small place, and its amusements
are not very visible to our eyes.

Here is reflected one aspect of the industrial situation
in Holland. The workers are not crowded into great
cities. They cannot, or seldom, escape the pressure of
self-respect. The self-respect of the small community,
again, cannot permit the glaring misery of want in its
midst. Drab the industrial towns may be, but our squalor
is not found in them. That does not settle the economic
problem, any more than that of the land is settled
because the Twente field-worker does not starve, and is
often happy, on 90 cents for a day of twelve hours. It
only explains certain Dutch appearances.

Even in the cities poverty is not clamorous, as with
us. The homeless of the Embankment is an impossible
sight in Holland. I give the fact no significance beyond
its bearing upon utter destitution. In Rotterdam
where only, one might almost say, the conditions of a
great city hold : Amsterdam is so individual there are
few who cannot pay the penny that provides a bed, and
these few get it at a police station.

In Rotterdam the average wage of workmen (the
dockers included) is again about 2os., and those earning
that sum are generally found living in houses with a
weekly rent of 45. 2d. The unique conditions of the city
explain the unusually large number of the dockers,
whose earnings therefore are of importance.

For those paid by the hour, the day is from 7 to 7>
at 25 cents per hour, two hours off; and 50 per cent,
more for overtime. The lo-hour day's wage is thus
45. 2d. ; but it is only 33. pd. if these casual (losse)
dockers are engaged for the whole day, and 2s. id. if for
half a day.

There are also regular (vaste) dockers, employed on two
different bases of payment. One class, for light general


cargo, make an average fixed wage of 2os. for a week of
six days; with 5d. per hour extra for night work. The
other class do the discharging of ores, coal, grain, and
other heavy cargoes, and are paid according to the
merchandise they handle. Working in gangs of eight men,
they receive, for example, 20 cents per ton of grain, or
2\ cents each. Such a docker, who frequently works
36 hours at a stretch, can earn from 405. to 675. a week.

It was in making inquiries about the earnings of the
Rotterdam and Amsterdam dockers that I got a glimpse
of the hard lot of Dutch working women. In both cities
I was told exactly the same story of the docker's high
wage : only a few guilders seven was the number
always mentioned is handed for housekeeping to the
wife, who ekes them out by charing. From 6.30 in the
morning to 7 at night she works for a guilder and meals.
From 6.30 to 4 counts as half a day, and for this she is
given a shilling and her luncheon.

The conditions of the workmen of Rotterdam may
be taken as being reproduced generally in Amsterdam,
where, however, under Socialist influence, the Council is
understood to aim at 26s. 8d. as a minimum wage for its
employees. In the Jordaan, the workman's quarters,
house rents run from $ to 12 or .15, and many
clerks also find houses at cheap rents there.

Amsterdam's special class are the diamond workers,
of whom almost all are Jews, and almost all are in
employment. They earn at present between 4, ics.
and 4, 145. per week. These figures apply to a body
of nearly 7000 workmen, and their Bond, in its strength
and perfect organisation, is in contrast to the divided
unions in most Dutch trades.

Enough of statistics, which I have confined to some
results of my own inquiries ; they corroborate anyone's
observations. I do not find it easy to establish compari-


sons between Dutch working-class conditions and our
own. Certain special workmen in Holland are making
very high wages : the country is at the moment enjoying
a season of prosperity. Follow the crowds going to work
in the cold and dreary winter mornings over the bridge
to Feyenoord in Rotterdam, as a notable example, but
also anywhere in the country their coffee-tins and
napkins with food over their shoulders, every man's
hands in his pockets, and you will discover their hard
conditions and long hours of labour. Rye bread (with
more white), potatoes, beans, bacon, without meat, but
with gymnastics in the school, observation and statistics
show, are nourishing an increasingly stalwart race. Often
a steaming dish, with forks working briskly in it, and the
cleanliness and a comfortableness in their houses, hide
a penurious life ; but the numbers of women and children
of the families always very large families who are
also at work tell a tale of the narrow margin on which
these households have to manage. Yet I should say
that, comparatively with the middle classes, the Dutch
working classes are at least as well off as our own. In
Holland the middle-class, judged by incomes, is much
larger, and its burdens are much heavier, than with us.

The Dutch workman is secured by Factory Acts in
the inspection of factories and workshops for health and
safety. One of the most important pieces of recent
legislation is the Workman's Compensation Act, based
on German and Austrian models, for the obligatory
insurance of workmen against sickness and accident
incurred by them in certain occupations. Its introduc-
tion into the Chambers aroused strong opposition from
the industrial section of the Liberals, and was one of the
causes of the weakening of the Liberal Union, which
helped to the overthrow of the Liberal party.

For its execution there has been created a system of


State Insurance, administered by means of a State
Insurance Bank, with a directorate appointed by the
Crown, and accountable to the Minister of Industry and
Commerce. There is also a Board of Supervision, with
a third of the members employers, and a third employees.
Compensation is fixed and awarded by the Bank, which
entertains appeals from any of the interested parties.
Payments are made at the Post Office.

The premium is fixed according to the amount of
salary and the nature of the industry. If the employer
is a Nederlander he is at liberty to take his own risk,
provided he can give the Bank the necessary security,
and compensates it for outlays, and pays a small sum
towards the cost of administration. Should the Bank
award a permanent pension, it demands from the
employer the contante waarde, that is, sums actually paid
out by it, with interest, and also the capital sum sufficient
to ensure the payment of the pension for life.

If the employer has insured the risk with some
organisation other than the Bank, he must compensate
the Bank for any oncosts, and when a pension has been
awarded, the organisation must pay the contante waarde,
and lodge the capital sum with the Bank.

In the case of accident, the employee receives free
medical attendance, but no further compensation if he
recovers and is back at work within three days. For
the first six months of disablement he is paid 70 per
cent, of his daily wages, and beyond that period he is
pensioned according to whether the disablement is
temporary or permanent. The pension, which is always
revisable, is fixed at 70 per cent, of his earnings as a
maximum, and calculated in proportion as he has lost
the means of livelihood. In the case of death, a sum
equal to his wage for thirty days is advanced for funeral
expenses, and a pension, which must not exceed 60 per


cent, of his wages, is paid to his relatives, who include
wife, children up to their seventeenth year, parents,
grandparents, orphan grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
Compensation is reduced by half when the accident
happens to a man the worse of drink ; and in such a
case no pension is due to his relatives if he dies.

" How do Dutch workmen amuse themselves ? " I
once asked in Holland, and was answered, " With lotteries."
They certainly provide a diversion in a life that has
few. A ticket in the State lottery costs fl. 60, and is
divided into 2Oth shares. It is not unusual for a score
of workmen in a shop to subscribe the price of one,
taking a share in twenty tickets, thus increasing their
chances. There are now three State lotteries in the
year, drawn in five or six classes, with a week's interval
between each, the drawing of the last series occupying
several consecutive days. When the tickets are issued
there is a rush to buy them, for there are not enough to
meet the demand. There is a lottery office on the Dam,
for the opening of which you can see a long queue formed
into a lane behind the Kalverstraat, patiently waiting
through the night. The lotteries are drawn at the
Hague, under Government supervision, by the children
of the Orphanage there.

The country receives I 5 per cent, of the subscription,
and so considerable is the revenue that a " Clerical "
Government, pledged to do away with lotteries, apparently
cannot venture on a clean sweep. I doubt if it would
be very popular. Public opinion is divided about their
being an evil. It is not only the workmen who support
them. A lady of my acquaintance amused me by
declaring that she always had a flutter, and thought it
very good fun. " Better to bet on lotteries than on
other things," is the remark of many who never them-
selves bet at all. While I have been writing, however,


a law has been passed against the making of books on
the steeplechases and flat-racing. When earlier, a betting
list on football matches was published, the football league
stepped in and got it suppressed.

Drink is the Dutch workman's curse. He begins the
day with a barrel, and has had many more before it is
finished. The lower-class public-houses seem to one to
be always full, and to a late hour, and I have mentioned
already how much of many docker's wages is spent in
them. If a stranger can depend on his observations,
there is more continuous and heavy drinking in the
country, particularly in the larger villages and smaller
towns in the districts feeling the effects of the agricultural
revival, than in the cities. It is in the last that most
converts are found for the Temperance doctrine, of which,
I am told, the Socialists are specially ardent preachers.

Rotterdam is not exactly a model of virtue, but it
assumes the air of one as easily as the shipping ports I
know at home, and in its scenes of rowdy debauchery
the Short High Street can be hideous the British sea-
man is reported locally to be a conspicuous performer.
Our tongue, I dare say, shields many a foreign reputation.
I am reminded of a shindy among Dutch lightermen on
the quay of the little town of Middelburg : my English
artist companion then will bear me out that only the
abuse was intelligible to him : it was plain and familiar
Anglo-Saxon ; but like a famous lover of a row, " though
I know the angry words that passed on the occasion, I
have no intention of telling them."

In Amsterdam, again, the eyesore of the Nes has
almost been removed, and the centre of the city's gaiety
has shifted to the Rembrandts Plein. But even there
the appearance of cafe" life is deceptive. But for the
Jews of the diamond industry, and strangers, it would
probably look rather empty. The cafe is the club of


many a Dutchman, who never sees a newspaper any-
where else. No one buys a paper on the streets in
Holland, or has it offered him for sale. A man is a
reader of the Nieuws van den Dag, say, or the Standaard
or the Telegraaf, subscribes to it for three months or a
year, and has it delivered from the office or by post.
Except at the cafe" or the club, he sees no other. It is
the rarest possible thing to find anyone reading in a
tram, and the workman seldom or never reads in the train.
In country places it is a local sheet that circulates.
Travelling in Twente, I lent my Rotterdammer to a
factory hand in the carriage with me. At the next
station others came in, evidently known to him, asked
him what that was he had in his hand, examined its
various sheets, A, B, C, and showed by their comments that
they had never before handled the famous newspaper.

One need scarcely say more than this to show that
Dutch workmen are not so intelligent as ours, and even
perhaps to explain partly why. I think it is indisputable
that they are not. But we require to distinguish among
Dutch workmen. One of the changes of the last ten
years which strikes me most, and as manifesting itself
in a characteristic way, is the appearance of an upper
layer of artisans and of those just above the workman
estate, which has ringed itself off by a superior bearing and
a new savoir-vivre. The Trade school, the Commercial
school, the Household school, have all, I do not doubt,
contributed to fashion this class, which, though it still
suffers, as all Holland does, from a narrowness of horizon,
is in education superior to any corresponding class, and
indeed has none, in this country.

One of my impressions of Holland ten years ago was
that it was less a highly educated country than a country
of highly educated people. That is my impression still ;
with the addition that in the interval many members of


Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 18 of 31)