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year ending June, 1902, the Labour Commissioners state that
of 9,589 offers of work made, only 4,469 were accepted. The
Commissioners go on to urge strongly that for relief purposes
stone-breaking depots should be instituted, the work to be
piece-work and paid strictly by results.

If such a system were initiated, although it might be costly in
itself for the work done, it would release the Government from
continually increasing demands for public works to absorb the
unemployed, it would allow no citizen to suffer privation, and
would abolish the unemployed as a political question within a
short time.

English experience seems hardly to bear out this opti-
mistic view of stone-yards, and perhaps the total result of our
experience may best be summed up by the following extract
from the Board of Trade Eeport on Agencies and Methods
for dealing with the Unemployed (1893) :

It appears to be conclusively shown . . . that the offer of work
without discrimination to all applicants is likely to attract large
numbers of a class for whom it is unlikely to be of permanent
benefit. . . . Some persons have objected to stringent inquiry as
inquisitorial, and doubtless such inquiry needs much tact and
judgment. Perhaps, however, the evils which have resulted from
its absence or insufficiency may be considered to outweigh any
objections of this kind. It does not appear that the mere test of
work, in any form in which it is likely to be applied, is a complete
or satisfactory substitute for inquiry if the permanent assistance of
the individual be the ultimate object in view.

Secondly, it would appear that the success or otherwise of the


relief works themselves is very largely a question of supervision
and administration. More foremen and gangers, and more careful
(though not harsher) discipline seem to be required than on
ordinary work, whereas in practice there is often a tendency for
the management to be less strict.

Thirdly, if we regard the provision of work as a test of willing-
ness to labour, it would appear that, other things being equal, the
best shape which it can take is that which shall provide the most
effective test for the purpose. Now the most searching of tests
appears to be continuity of employment. Loafers and tramps are
not unwilling to do a couple of days' work even hard work ; and
many who will work for weeks together three days in each week
would be weeded out if they were compelled to work every day.
This being so, schemes which merely provide a few days' work for
a large number of men in successive relays are of all others the
most likely to be abused. They offer work in the form which
exactly suits those who are unwilling to submit to continuous
exertion, while doing very little for those really in distress. The
plan of employing men in two shifts three days a week each is
recommended on the ground that it gives them a chance to look
out for work during the rest of the week ; but against this very
real advantage must be set the encouragement offered to loafers
by an arrangement which falls in with their habits.

To sum up, the special danger which temporary schemes of
municipal employment have to face is that they may fail to attract
the class of unemployed whose distress is merely caused by tem-
porary difficulties over which the individuals have no control, while
they are unlikely to be organised and administered with sufficient
completeness and elasticity to enable them to be of service for the
lasting assistance or reformation of the chronically idle and

H. B.





Is Emigration a cure or a palliative for want of employment ?
That depends first on who and what manner of people
they are who are in want of employment. Colonial agents
and colonists generally say they want the very best workmen
to emigrate. The answer is that the very best workmen are
never out of employment, and as a rule will not go, for the
very good reason that they are better off at home, and prob-
ably earn higher wages than they would get anywhere else.
The bulk of applicants for help to emigrate may be divided
roughly into three classes :

(1) Steady, thrifty men who are moderately good


(2) Thriftless, but not vicious men and not habitual

drunkards, of various degrees of excellence as

(8) Those who from moral or physical defects are
practically unemployable.

The third and last class are impossible as emigrants.
Whatever a man is, emigration tends to make him more so
tends to confirm his habits by giving them scope for develop-
ment, not to change them. It is hopeless to attempt to cure
a drunken or a lazy man by emigrating him. Such, at least,
is the general rule. But for the man inclined to drink, but
not yet a confirmed drunkard, Canada may, under favourable
circumstances, offer a better chance for recovery than the Old


Country, for the habits of the Dominion are on the whole
more temperate, among the women especially. The same
cannot, I think, be said of Australia, but the contrary.

We have generally to deal, therefore, with the other two
classes the steady, fairly good workman, and the thriftless
but not vicious. And we have to trust to the patience and
discrimination of the District Committees to ascertain for us
the characters of the applicants, which, if they are in the
second class, is often difficult.

Practically it is almost always the pressure of want, actual
or prospective want estimated at a higher or lower standard
according to the individual and the class he belongs 4o that
is the moving cause for emigration. In good times, when
employment is plentiful and well paid, as was the case in the
decade from 1891-1901, the numbers leaving the country,
either at their own expense or by the help of charitable
societies, is comparatively small. In bad times the number
goes up, and our Society gets a fair proportion of applicants
from Class 1 as well as from Class 2.

Much difference of opinion exists as to the amount and
degree of distress and want of employment at the present
time in London. The District Committees of this Society
have lately sent in carefully considered reports, each as
regards its own district, on this subject. I think they may
be summarised thus : There is not in most districts much
more than the usual amount of distress and want of work at
this time of year ; but in some there is more, and in others
considerably more. And there are in some trades, and
notably in the building trade, and also among the Dockyard
engineers and workmen at Woolwich, more good men out of
work than for many years past. In these trades want of
employment has affected a higher class than usually falls out
of work in depressed times. And, moreover, there is an
uneasy feeling that the depression is not merely temporary,
and that the outlook is gloomy.

I am sorry to say that amongst our most urgent cases are


not a few old Army men, Reservists and Volunteers, who
have served in the war. Of the two latter classes many have
not had the opportunity of taking up the work they were
doing before the war, trade being generally more slack now
than it was then. Or they came home invalided, and so
fell into difficulties. Considering the obligation we owe to
these men, considering the extremity of difficulty the country
would have been in three years ago had they, and such as
they, not come forward, I think it is our bounden duty to
assist them to the utmost of our power, and when we have
done so, to count them still our creditors and not our

It would be out of place to-day indeed it would be quite
beyond my powers to go, in detail, into the question of
the causes which have led to the present distress and want of
employment. Want of thrift, of course, is always the chief
cause of poverty and distress. Considering the abundance
of employment, the comparatively high wages, and the low
price of necessaries always excepting house-rent during the
decade 1891-1901, it is disappointing to find how little solid
ground has been gained in this respect. As regards London,
there can be no doubt that the inconsiderate lavishness of
some of the Boards of Guardians has aggravated the situa-
tion by encouraging the less thrifty portion of the work-
ing class to look to Out-door Relief in time of pressure as a
matter of course, and to squander savings which might have
kept them from poverty when bad times came. I cannot help
saying that in my humble opinion the attitude of the Local
Government Board has from time to time materially contri-
buted to this state of things. I would instance the Board's
hesitating and uncertain action in regard to unearned old-age
State pensions, which has operated calamitously I can use
no milder term in discouraging the members of Friendly
Societies from contributing for a pension wherever there is a
scheme for pensions, or of starting a scheme where there was
not one already. I would instance Mr. Chaplin's Outdoor


Eelief Minute and Circular of two and a half years ago ; and
last, but not least, Sir E. Strachey's ' Friendly Societies and
Out-door Belief ' Bill, brought in, for the third time, this year,
by which it is proposed that the rates and the machinery of
Out-door Belief shall be utilised not as a last resource for
the destitute, but as a sort of prize fund out of which pre-
miums are to be awarded to members of Friendly Societies
and to nobody else who are thrifty but not too thrifty.
(Those who are too thrifty to have to apply for relief get no
premiums !) Such an attitude is equivalent to saying to the
Friendly Society men, * You shall have a prize for thrift on
condition of your becoming a pauper ! ' 1

If the spirit of the Poor Law Commissioners of 1834 had
been alive in the Local Government Board for the last decade
we should have more men in what I have called Class I. and
fewer in Class II. ; and it would be easier for us to-day to
find good emigrants for Canada than it is.

The applications for assistance to emigrate which have
come before us this year, both by their greatly increased
numbers and by the extreme poverty and the inability of
most of the applicants to contribute anything towards the
cost of their passages, certainly indicate an unusual amount
of want of employment and destitution.

In 1898-9 we helped out only forty-one persons, the
smallest number we ever sent in a year. In 1900-1 there
were seventy. Last year they rose to 126, nearly all the
increase being to Canada. This year the number promises
to be much larger. Applications are coming in at a rate we
never had before. Since January 1st we have sent out, or
decided to send out, ninety-nine persons. At the present time
applications are coming in at the rate of something like fifty
a week. 2

1 The Bill was again thrown out by a small majority in the House of

2 This was written in February 1903. During the year 1902-3 450
emigrants were sent out by the Committee, nearly all going to Canada,


Already several of them have gone to Canada some six
weeks earlier than usual, for in that country so many large
works, public and private, have recently been undertaken, and
so brisk, beyond all precedent, is the demand for labour of
almost all kinds, that we can be sure of our people obtaining
work as soon as they arrive, although farming operations may
not yet have begun.

This increase of numbers involves a corresponding in-
crease of expenditure, the more so because many of this year's
applicants have come to the end of their savings and can
contribute little towards the cost of their passage. Now,
since the work of this Sub-Committee began in 1886, we have
never refused an application, eligible in other respects, on
account of expense (I do not say that in a doubtful case the
balance may not now and then have turned against it on
account of its expense), but no really good case has ever been
rejected solely on that ground. In sixteen years we have
assisted 2,892 persons to emigrate. These, be it remem-
bered, were nearly all young people, so that by this time they
and their offspring may perhaps amount to two or three times
that number. The numbers in each year have varied greatly
in bad times many, in good times few. We began in
1886-7 with 466, and went down gradually but irregularly
to forty-one, the lowest point, in 1898-9, towards the close of
the prosperous decade. When our numbers were low we cut
down our working expenses to the utmost, and continued to
go on with the funds supplied by our very small list of
regular subscribers. When we had many applications we
made an appeal to the public. The last time we so appealed
was in November 1888, more than fourteen years ago. We
think that this long interval and existing requirements justify
us in making an appeal now.

I think that we may say with confidence that of our 2,892
emigrants all but a very few have succeeded, many of them
having passed from poverty almost amounting to destitution


to a high degree of comfort and prosperity. I must confess
though I fear some of my colleagues may not approve to
a certain degree of satisfaction in having a few a very few
failures, because it is an indication that we do not set our
standard too high. Inquire as you will, you cannot appraise
a man's character with absolute accuracy. I had rather send
out one unrighteous man with forty-nine righteous than
reject the whole fifty because I cannot ascertain which among
them is the one black sheep. But this by the way. The
tone of nearly all the letters we receive is remarkable for an
absence of grumbling, which in an average Briton indicates
an almost superlative degree of contentment. Perhaps the
best proof of their success has been the great number of
invitations sent to their friends at home to go out and join
them, which are continually being brought to us.

There can, I think, be no question of the benefit conferred
on these persons, and also of the advantages, pro tanto,
obtained by the Colonies which required their labour. But it
may be objected that taking a wider view emigration is not
a cure for want of employment, because bad times come to a
colony as well as to an old populous country. With reserva-
tions I, of course, admit that. We have heard for years past,
at intervals, of hundreds of unemployed men at Sydney and
elsewhere being supported by Government and being paid 6s.
or 7s. a day for doing, or not doing, a small modicum of un-
necessary public work. But all the time work was to be had
up the country, on the land, at a wage which, though some-
what reduced, would have been considered an ample one in
the Old Country ; and had Government so-called employment
been refused, there would have been a stimulus to agriculture
instead of to laziness. In a country of good agricultural
capability, sparsely populated, I venture to think that it can
hardly happen, even at the most depressed times, that surplus
labour cannot be absorbed at a wage sufficient at the worst
to place a man far beyond the reach of actual want, if only


the Government will leave the ' unemployed ' alone. If I am
right, it follows that in emigration, if it could be carried out
on a sufficiently large scale, lies a solution to a great extent
of what is called the problem of the unemployed, so far as
relates to those of them who are employable.

And apart from the question of the * unemployed,' it is
surely much to be desired that the population of the Empire
should be more evenly distributed, less crowded together in
one little corner. How many of the difficulties of life in
England are directly attributable to its too great density ?
There is the housing question, the fear of famine in case of a
naval war, the undue preponderance of townspeople over
country people, with the consequent loss of vigour in the race,
the daily brain- weary ing railway journeys rendered necessary
by the size of the towns, the destructive aggression of the
builder upon scene after scene of natural beauty. All that is
a very old story, but none the less a true one. In 1883 the
gross total of British and Irish emigrants from the United
Kingdom reached 320,000. The total increase of population
that is, the excess of births over deaths may be put roughly
at 1,000 a day. So that the time seemed to be approaching
when possibly a stationary condition of the population might
be looked for, if not even a slight depletion. It was a vain
hope ! From that year there has been a gradual, though
irregular diminution of emigrants. Through the prosperous
decade of 1891-1901 it grew less, reaching its lowest in 1898
with 140,000. But these are the gross figures. There are
large deductions of immigrants to be made. In 1898 there
were no less than 91,000 immigrants to deduct from the
140,000 emigrants, leaving a balance of less than 50,000, or a
little more than an eighth of the natural increase. But with
the depression of the last year or two the tide has turned.
The total for 1902 is 205,000, with a deduction for immigra-
tion of 104,000, or more than half.

One would have thought that the increased and improved
acquaintance and communication with our Colonies would


have led to a different result. Some surprises may yet be in
store for us in Canada or in South Africa. But doubtless we
are too comfortable at home to wish to uproot on a large scale
sensibly more comfortable in each succeeding decade. And
I am afraid it seems as if nothing but the sharp spur of
absolute necessity would drive us to execute more rapidly the
command to * replenish the earth and subdue it.*

J. M.



THE scope of this paper is a limited one. Its aim is to raise
a discussion upon the utility, true function, and line of
development of Labour Bureaux in England. Although the
due consideration of the subject cannot be confined to London,
the writer of the paper claims no personal knowledge of the
working of such Provincial Bureaux as have already been
started. Nor is it proposed to discuss the Bureaux of France,
Germany, the United States, and Australasia, important as
these are in relation to the industrial conditions to which they
relate. Those conditions differ in essential particulars from
those obtaining in Great Britain, and their consideration
would exclude more vital questions nearer home.

If we look at the aims of those who have advocated
Labour Bureaux in this country we shall find the widest
divergence of opinion, from the purely philanthropic objects
and voluntary methods of the Kev. Wm. Tozer, the founder
of the well-known Ipswich Labour Bureau, down to the chief
resolution of the Guildhall Conference on the Unemployed,
whose terms I will venture to quote. * The responsibility,'
runs the resolution, ' for finding work for the unemployed in
each district should be undertaken jointly by the Local
Authorities and by the Central Government, and such legis-
lation should be introduced as would empower both Central
and Local Authorities to deal adequately with the problem.'

The promoters of that Conference charge the Labour
Registration officers with two duties unknown either to the


voluntary Bureaux or to the Labour Bureaux (London) Act
of 1902. They are, first, to ascertain as accurately as may be
the number and occupations of the unemployed, and, second
to co-operate with the Central Government in finding useful
work for such unemployed.

Those who have met here this afternoon have been led by
no such chimerical suggestions. We are content, I take it,
to accept, provisionally at least, the more practicable formula
of the Act of 1902, which defines a Labour Bureau as ' an
office or place used for the purpose of supplying information,
either by the keeping of registers or otherwise, respecting
employers who desire to engage workpeople, and workpeople
who seek engagement or employment.'

Such a Bureau is neither a charitable nor a political
agency. It takes its place as a distributive agent in the
social economy, and as an economic distributive agency it
must stand or fall. The idea that the State can make itself
responsible for providing work for all who need it is not
entirely new to English law. That the State should do this
for all destitute persons, but that it should couple such work
with ineligible conditions is a leading provision of the
English Poor Law. But that the State should undertake
such a responsibility except under these conditions is too
discredited a doctrine to need refutation. As, however, it is
the doctrine which underlies much of the demand for State
Labour Bureaux, it must be mentioned here in order to be

The second proposal in regard to Labour Bureaux that
relating to what General Booth has called * The regimenta-
tion of the unemployed ' has allured many philanthropists.
1 Let us know exactly who are the unemployed, and then we
can deal with them.' Such statistics, however, would be
worthless unless they were, for a locality, fairly exhaustive t
To make them so, the registrars, after determining exactly
what they mean by ' unemployed,' must enrol all the
unemployed, and none but the unemployed ; and they must



verify in each case the degree of unemployment. This would
be a gigantic task if it were confined to bond-fide workmen
unemployed or casually employed; but such an enrolment
would not deal adequately with the subject unless it included
the loafing and vagrant classes. Nor is it easy to suggest
any motive short of compulsion that would induce these
various classes to enrol themselves. Finally, supposing all
these difficulties to be overcome, what useful object would be
served ? We should have a numerical expression for an evil
whose character has been carefully analysed, and the removal
of which is known to depend, so far as it is at all practicable,
upon wide-reaching reforms in our social, fiscal, industrial,
and educational systems. Towards these reforms a mere
numerical analysis will avail but little.

But the philanthropist too often wants not merely the
statistics for argument, but the men to relieve. Here again
the Labour Bureau, if it is to justify itself as an economic
experiment, must sternly refuse. Directly the attempt is
made to use the Bureau as a means of relief, its economic
function tends to break down by loss of credit with the
employing class. Several of the Labour Bureaux in London
contain in their form of application a space for the number
of the applicant's family. This is, we must suppose, a
survival from the Labour Eegisters started in the early
nineties. These were largely the result of Mr. Fowler's
Circular recommending co-operation between Boards of
Guardians and Vestries with a view to the employment upon
the roads of applicants for relief. In such an application,
need, as represented by number of family, would constitute a
preferential claim. The Bureaux of the Act of 1902 have no
relations with the Guardians. The only needs considered are
the need of the employer for a workman and the need of the
workman for work.

What then is the relation of the Labour Bureau to the
problem of the unemployed ?


Four facts meet us on the threshold of the controversy :

(1) The Bureau cannot directly create a demand for

(2) If so, then in a given state of the labour market the
work found for A is lost by B.

(3) The Bureau will be most useful, because labour
leakage will be most costly, not when trade is bad, but when
trade is good.

(4) The Bureau may tend to relax men's efforts to find
work for themselves (although this consideration would apply
with almost equal force to the operation of trades unions,
which find work for their members). To whatever extent
this tendency may operate, it must be regarded as a set-off
against the increased fluidity of labour claimed as a product
of the Bureaux.

At first sight, then, the connection between Labour
Bureaux and the unemployed problem seems remote. That
problem, although it is always with us, assumes its acutest
form at the bottom of great trade depressions. As such
depressions deepen, more labour and capital are thrown out
of employment, and, roughly speaking, the less productive

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Online LibraryUnknownMethods of social advance; short studies in social practice by various authors → online text (page 8 of 16)