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Wages And The Price Of Commodities

Volume 180: debated on Thursday 8 August 1907

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I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the statement appearing in the last Consular Report from the United States that the average increase of wages during the last ten years has been 20 per cent., but the increase in the price of commodities has been 40 per cent., and that the cost of living of many has, in consequence, gone beyond their means of obtaining income; and whether he has any official information confirming these statements.

I have seen the statement referred to. The information in the possession of the Board of Trade leads them to believe that the prices of necessaries in the United States have increased in late years in greater proportion than money wages. I doubt, however, whether the precise figures given in the statement afford altogether a fair comparison, since prices generally in the United States were abnormally low in 1897, the first year of the decennial period. Taking an average of the years 1895–9 and confining comparison to articles of food and clothing, the increase in prices would appear to be nearer 30 than 40 per cent.

asked whether these statistics corresponded with those issued from the Statistical Bureau at Washington. Personally, he thought they did not.

asked whether the Consular Report did not distinctly state that the figures were taken from the volume issued by the Statistical Bureau.

was understood to say that this was the latest information the Board of Trade had got. In reply to a further Question from Mr. C. E. PRICE,

said that the increased cost of the necessaries of life and clothing were out of proportion to the increase of wages.

Is it not the fact that the figures refer largely to luxuries and not to the necessaries of life—to imported articles not manufactured in the country?

No, Sir, they do not refer to imported articles largely luxuries. I would not call clothing a luxury.