Explain the life of workers in England in the twentieth century.
Life of workers in the Twentieth Century in England: The abundance of labour in the market affected the lives of the workers. As new possible jobs travelled on the countryside, hundreds tramped to cities. The actual possibilities of getting job depended on existing network of friendship and kin relations. If you have a relative or a friend in a factory you were more likely to get a job quickly. But not everyone had social connections. Many job seekers had to wait weeks spending nights under bridge or in night shelters. Some stayed in night refuges that were set up by private individuals. Others went to the casual wards maintained by the poor law authorities.
Seasonality of work in many industries meant prolonged periods without work. After the busy season was over the poor were on the street again. Some returned to countryside after the winter, when the demand for labour in rural areas opened up in places. But most looked for odd jobs, which till the mid -19th century’ were difficult to find.
Wages increased somewhat in the early nineteenth century but they tell us little about the welfare of the workers. The average figure hides the variations between trader and the fluctuations from year to year. For instance when prices rose sharply during the prolonged Napoleonic war. The real value of what the workers earned, fell significantly’. Since the same wages could now buy fewer things. Moreover, the income of workers depended not on the wage rate alone. What was critical was the period of employment. The number of days of work determined the average daily income of the workers. At the best of times till the mid- nineteenth century’ about 10 per cent of the urban population were extremely poor. In periods of economic slump, like the 1830s the proportion of unemployment went up to anything between 35 and 75 per cent in different regions. The fear of unemployment made workers hostile to the introduction of new technology. When the Spinning Jenny was introduced in the woollen industry, women who survived on hand spinning began attacking the new machine. This conflict over the introduction of the Jenny continued for a long time.
After the 1840s, building activity intensified in the cities, opening up greater opportunities of employment. Roads were widened, new railway’ stations came up, railway’ lines were extended, tunnels dug, drainage, sewers laid, rivers embanked. The numbers of workers employed in the transport industry doubled in the 1840s and doubled again in the subsequent 30 years.