The measurement of economic and labour market conditions in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and the use of data from the co-operative movement of Great Britain
The overall aim of the thesis is to extract from a hitherto under-used data set a wide range of statistics that enable the calculation of annual average earnings for a geographically and occupationally diverse group of workers. The period covered is 1896 to 1913 and essentially attempts to draw economic and welfare inferences from spatial and time series analysis by occupational sector and between geographical location. The extent of the data may be exemplified by noting that the number of workers represented is 52,977 in 1896 and 178,674 in 1913. The thesis is divided into three sections as follows: 1. The introductory part discusses in general terms the measurement of economic and labour market conditions in the period, the relative importance of this issue, and difficulties that exist due to lack of representative data. The second part attempts to justify the use of data for annual average earnings of co-operative society workers as giving some representation of market wages. This is covered by two chapters, one qualitative and one quantative 2. The first part of this section draws upon statistics from productive societies in the Movement. The data is arranged by sector and comparisons are made with existing work by Bowley, Wood and Feinstein. Additional data is drawn from the Labour Gazette in the period and the results seem to suggest that, when actual earnings rather than wage rates are used, annual and periodic levels of income show greater variance. The possibility that these variances may be an indication of underlying economic and labour market conditions is discussed in detail. The second part of this section uses data from the largest section of the Movement, the distributive side. A database (Access) has been created and statistics on annual average earnings entered for all 1,167 distributive societies in 1906 (62,465 workers). A total of 890 have been mapped onto an outline of Great Britain. This data is also presented at metropolitan and regional levels of analysis for comparative purposes. 3. The final part of the thesis attempts to draw upon the preceding chapters to suggest that variance in annual average earnings may contribute to the debate concerning conditions within Britain for the period. Relative distress within the diverse economy that existed in the period has been an area of quite considerable discussion and authors have used a number of proxy measures - for example poor law returns, data for the recovery of small debts, marriage rates and trade union unemployment returns - to measure these variations. This section will investigate the possibility that one or more of these proxies may be indicative of relative conditions (by comparison with annual average wages) when tested at local levels.