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by native female or other labour had there been no alien immigration into this country.
Leaving the skilled labour market out of the question, we think it proved that the industrial conditions under which a large number of aliens work in London fall below the standard which ought, alike in the interests of the workmen and the community at large, to be maintained.
Complaint was made by several witnesses with regard to the ill effects which immigration has had upon the native shopkeepers. Their interests have suffered in two ways, for while there is a natural tendency, and even, with regard to certain articles of food, a religious obligation among a large class of the immigrants to deal only with persons of their own race, the great displace. ment of population caused by immigration has operated simultaneously to disperse the former customers of the English retailers. We consider that these complaints are not without foundation.'
I am very far from saying that every effect of alien immigration, considered as a factor in the economic life of the community, is bad. Serious evils are due to the movement, and there are certain counterbalancing advantages. As in every case where there is a complexity of results, no single term applies to them all. It is a question on which side the scale falls. I propose to deal in this article with the benefits which the native consumer is said to owe to alien immigration. But there is one class—the poorest and least happily situated of our own people—to whom the advent of the foreigners from Eastern Europe has been an unmitigated disaster. The Commissioners wrote:
It is beyond dispute that many of the aliens who arrive in this country are unskilled and without adequate means, and the result is, at any rate in London, that they are compelled to submit to conditions of labour which must have some influence in producing cheapness of price. Many of these men, no doubt, in time become skilled workmen in the particular department of the shoemaking or other industry which they may adopt, but the continuous stream of fresh arrivals produces a glut in the unskilled labour market and a very severe competition in the lower grades of alien labour itself.?
The point seems to me to be one of very great importance. We are making strenuous efforts to level up the life-conditions of our most hardly pressed workers. Individuals and organised agencies, clergy and laymen, are striving to accomplish this difficult and discouraging task. And we have here a cause which is in constant operation to frustrate their endeavours. The difficulty should interest all who can commiserate the lot of the least fortunate of their countrymen, and I hope that I need make no apology for citing the corroborative opinion of the Rev. Wilfrid H. Davies, rector of Spitalfields, who has been quoted as an authority on the subject of alien immigration by the Jewish Chronicle. He said, with regard to the native workers, when he was giving evidence before the Commission:
They do feel their being displaced, and they feel very strongly two things: first of all, that this alien immigration has raised rents, and it has lowered
| Report of the Commission, p. 20.
3 Ibid. p. 19.
wages, owing to the fact that an enormous number of aliens come into this country who are not artisans, and have no trade, and are willing to work for very low wages, and do so; and the fact that constantly people who have been getting, perbaps, 11. a week are ousted by a man who, to keep body and soul together, will work for a few shillings (9768).
Q. You would say that, generally speaking, the alien population has a lower standard of living than the Christian population ?
A. Distinctly (9740).
Another class of native workers which has been most detrimentally affected by alien immigration is that of costermongers and streetvendors. These people are for the most part industrious, and they had been accustomed to earn a livelihood under conditions involving toil and exposure. There can be no doubt that the poorer class of customers found it convenient and advantageous to trade with them, and no sort of demand existed among the English population that aliens should take their place. But at the present time they have been subjected to a ruinous competition by foreign hawkers, not in the East End only, but in every part of London—in Westminster as in Stepney. As the Royal Commissioners said, 'this has caused ill-feeling between them '(the aliens) and the large body of Englishmen employed in the same trades.' These foreigners are constantly giving trouble to the police by obstructing thoroughfares, and the proceedings that result waste the time of magistrates in nearly all Metropolitan police courts. Such cases as that cited below, and similar comments from the bench, are matters of daily
A Russian lad was brought up at the City Summons Court for causing obstruction with a barrow of fruit. He was unable to speak a word of English, and the evidence was interpreted to him. Sir Henry Knight said, 'We must have these people stopped from being dumped down upon us. It is abominable. Tell him what he has done, as he does not seem to understand.' A fine of 28. and costs was imposed.' S
I cannot myself see what benefit accrues to the community by the advent of such immigrants that can possibly compensate the injury to our own people of a hard-working class. The evil is the more pronounced because, together with these struggle-for-lifers,' a very considerable number of mendicants and impostors and of 'undesirables' of a much more dangerous and degraded kind come into the country from Eastern Europe. The extent to which immorality and depravity of the worst sort have been imported into more than one quarter of London, and into other cities, from this source is a very serious feature of the immigration question.
Nothing is more difficult to judge than the effect which alien immigration has had upon the wage-earning power of natives in the trades which the incoming foreigners chiefly follow. These are the tailoring, shoemaking, cabinet-making, and cigarette-making trades. Two difficulties confront us at the outset :
* Daily Chronicle, February 17, 1904.
(1) That of obtaining figures which show the real state of the industry through all its ranks.
(2) That of determining, even approximately, what the evolution of these trades would have been if the influx of aliens had not taken place. They were all in a state of transition when the immigration movement became important, in the 'eighties of the last century, and would in any case have been most seriously affected by the introduction of new machinery and methods.
Mr. Llewellyn Smith, of the Board of Trade, thus described the manner in which his department discovers those changes in rates of wages which are tabulated and issued officially:
We originally hear of some change taking place by a number of different Fays, sometimes through correspondents in the district, and sometimes through a newspaper cutting; and then we address schedules of inquiries to employers and employed, and compare the answers.
Q. Would any of those figures refer to any of the so-called sweated trades and industries ?
A. I should think many of them would.
Q. Would you get the returns from the small men of the number of people working at home and employing labour under them, and that sort of thing?
A. We should get them very imperfectly (22498 seq.).
But statistical difficulties do not occur only in the case of sweated' industries. The tailoring trade has been more seriously affected by alien immigration than any other. It is divided into two main branches—the bespoke tailoring' and the ready-made tailoring.' In the former the garment ordered by the customer is made entirely by one skilled worker, and this industry has been little affected by the inflow of greeners' from Eastern Europe. It is, of course, probable that a quite small number of trained Jewish tailors reach this country from that region; but the reason why the majority, even of those who have had an opportunity of acquiring such a craft, are not expert in it is very well given by a Jewish authority, Dr. Ganz. In his book Reiseskizzen aus Rumanien he wrote:
Jewish workmanship in general is not very much appreciated (the author refers especially to Moldavia), and if Jewish workmen are often employed, it is because they work at a much lower rate than other workmen. . . . If the fashionable cutters-out among the tailors are excepted, no Jewish workmen have the reputation of being masters in their art, as generally happens with those who embrace a career against their will and because they could find no other way of earning a living. He who wishes to have his work well done addresses himself to the German, who requires to be better paid than the Jow, and whom everybody is willing to pay better.
These fashionable cutters-out' would have little inducement to emigrate to England, where the competition is much more severe, and the style not that to which they are accustomed. I do not mean to imply that the native worker is not subject to alien competition in the higher branch of the tailoring industry. There was evidence before the Royal Commission to show that this employment was being steadily taken up by Germans and Poles (Evans, 11916, seq.), but that there was no consequent underselling or excessive stress of work (11921). The cause of the change seems to be a shortage in the supply of highly skilled British hands (11919-20). Possibly those who would otherwise become apprentices do not think that the prospects of the trade are bright enough. But I do not wish to press any theory on the subject.
The branch of the trade into which the great body of alien arrivals have flocked is the ready-made tailoring. The great expansion of this trade in recent years has been accompanied by a reorganisation of the methods of production, and the supply is maintained by a minute subdivision of labour ; each part of the work upon a garment is given to a hand whom practice has rendered deft and quick at this particular process. The work requires swiftness and dexterity rather than the mastery of a whole craft, and the newcomers take to is as readily in America as in England. With regard to this branch of the industry the Board of Trade reports : ‘There are no materials for giving a statistical account of changes of wages in the ready-made tailoring trade, owing to the system on which the trade is carried on.''
This, together with the boot and shoe making, cabinet-making, and cigarette-making industries, is affected by the following considerations, which Mr. Llewellyn Smith brought to the notice of the Royal Commission :
There is such a vital distinction between changes in the rates paid for a given kind of labour and changes in the average rate of earnings in the whole trade. Both things are called changes in the rate of wages, but they may move entirely in opposite directions. Average earnings may go down while the rates go up, because of the changes of machinery or processes which have varied the proportion between the higher skilled and the lower skilled people. You intro. duce a machine which enables you to use less skilled labour, and you may be paying the same rate, or higher wages, for the skilled labour, and yet your wages bill may be lower.
And again, speaking of boot-making in Northamptonshire :
The net result of the changes of wages recorded was a rise, but it does not necessarily mean that the average earnings went up (22508, 22515).
And the following statement shows that it is hardly possible to gather from statistics of wages what factors have tended to raise and what to lower the average earnings of workers, or to determine from these figures whether alien immigration has or has not seriously affected the earning power of native people in the trades affected :
It is perfectly possible for the rates of pay for each and all of the different classes of labour to go up, and yet the average rate to go down, because of the
• Appendix Vol. to Report of Royal Commission, p. 25.
changes in the proportion of the low skilled and the high skilled workmen in that trade. This usually happens in trades which have been revolutionised by machinery, where the introduction of machinery, or the subdivision of labour, or new processes enables the product to be turned out by a new industrial method. It may be that each class of labour of the same kind will get more money, and yet, if you take a census of all the earnings, there would be a reduction; and that divergence of meaning runs through a large part of the evidence with regard to wages. . . . A very famous case, that appeals to every. body, is the change brought about in the textile trade a century ago by the power loom. It has entirely altered things. It is important to emphasise this, because all the trades that have been discussed before the Commission are trades which in recent years have been in a state of economic revolution, owing to the introduction of new processes, morc subdivision, more machinery, and the factory system. Consequently, these kinds of changes have been going on all the while. That makes the evidence, of course, very difficult to dissect sometimes. ... Even with regard to the comparison of piece rates, which are sometimes quoted to show the advance or decline of wages, I am bound to say that such comparisons are of no value unless they can be checked by experts, who can say that the work to be done is exactly the same in the two periods; that no more or no less assistance is given by the machine, and that there is no alteration in the class of material, carrying with it greater or less difficulty, or that the limits of the process—where it begins and where it ends-have not been altered. I have innumerable cases that have come before my notice of that kind of change, which vitiates a comparison of piece rates (22656-7).
We have, then, the fact that available statistics only give an imperfect view of what is happening in the industry to which they refer. But another process has been in operation in the trades most affected by alien immigration. This is best described in Mr. Llewellyn Smith's words :
Then, with regard to the competition of alien labour, again, there are two kinds of competition which run into one another, but, I think, produce rather different results, and ought to be kept distinct in our minds. There is the direct competition between A. and B., where A. does the same work or produces the same product as B. in competition with him. But there is another kind of competition, where A. is not producing the same article as B., but produces something which he induces the public to take in substitution for it. Now, these two sets of people are both competing with each other, and the connectinglink in the case we are considering would, perhaps, be machine-made clothing, which is made to imitate the old hand-made clothing, so that the public hardly knows the difference between them. But these two forms of competition, direct and indirect, work out somewhat differently in their effect on wages. There is no doubt that the direct competition, in which the two bodies of work. men come into direct rivalry at the same work, is that which is apt to produce the keenest feeling between them and the most obvious direct effects on wages and employment. But the competition which acts through the substitution of a new article acts more gradually and less obviously, and sometimes the two bodies of workpeople never come into direct contact at all, and they are hardly aware of each other's existence. It has to act through a change in the taste of the consumer. If the process of substitution is not very rapid, but spread over a generation, possibly there may be no effect on wages or employment to the old-fashioned producer himself, but merely a gradual sbrinkage or an absence of expansion in his trade, which would be shown by the diminution of the number of people who enter it (22663).