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WEEKLY EARNINGS OF WOMEN
(PAPER BOXES, SHIRTS AND COLLARS, CONFEC-
THE BUREAU OF STATISTICS AND INFORMATION
WEEKLY EARNINGS OF WOMEN IN FIVE INDUSTRIES
PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION
The investigation of which the results are set forth in this Bulletin was undertaken to throw light on the question of what women's wages are at present. In addition to the general interest attaching to the subject, there was special occasion for securing such information just at this time, owing to the active movement for minimum wage legislation at the present session of the Legislature. With the question of the wisdom of such legislation or with argument for or against it, this Bulletin does not undertake to deal. The aim is only to afford some substantial, impartial and accurate information as to what women's wages actually are at the present time, which information would seem to be the necessary background for most intelligent discussion of legislative proposals dealing with the subject.
In the time available between the date when the need of such information became evident and the date when the work must be completed if results were to be available early in the legislative session, it was possible to cover only a limited field. In selecting the field three considerations were in mind, namely, to take, first, those employing considerable numbers of women; second, those in which women's wages are of grades relatively low rather than high; third, those for which a sufficient number of reports could be secured in a limited time to afford fairly representative figures. It was desirable also to take the same industries as were covered by the investigation of the Factory Investigating Commission of 1913-14 in order to afford evidence as to the movement of wages between that time and the present. On this basis four factory industries paper boxes, shirts and collars, confectionery, and cigars and tobacco- and mercantile estab
lishments, were selected.
The data called for in the form used consisted of transcripts from the payroll for a single week of the number of hours worked where recorded and amount of wages received by each female employee on that payroll, those under sixteen years of age being so designated, together with report of the number of working days in the week covered. The payrolls were not all for the same week in different establishments. Up-state the reports were
all for the week ended November 23, 1918, or for the payroll nearest thereto. In New York City the reports were for different weeks in the period from December 11, 1918, to January 10, 1919.
The form of the tabulations presented was dictated by the purpose of the investigation. The essențial point in connection with the minimum wage question upon which such an investigation could throw light is that of how low wages actually are and what proportion of women are receiving the lower wages. Hence the tables present percentages of those receiving a given grade or less. Median wages are also shown approximately by the tables, that is, to within less than fifty cents since they fall in grades of that limit. The grade containing the median is, of course, the one for which the cumulative percentage is fifty or nearest above that.
But while presenting the figures from the point of view of the extent of low wages, care was taken to guard against any possible exaggeration or over-statement in that direction. To this end the following was done. Wherever a week reported for included a public holiday on which no work was done, earnings were increased by a ratio equal to that of one day to the actual working time in that week. For example, if in a six-day week there was such a holiday, leaving actual working time five days, the reported earnings were increased by one-fifth to represent equivalent earnings for a full week. Where commissions or bonuses were paid these were included in earnings. In the case of mercantile establishments it is frequently the practice to have a certain number of employees as a supplementary force working regularly only in the afternoons or on certain days of the week. To eliminate such cases, in the tabulations for mercantile establishments all workers reported as working less than half time were omitted. Girls under sixteen, as being likely to be learners or beginners, were left out of all the tables. Finally, in addition to tables including all women except those excluded as just noted, a second set of tables was made which included only those who worked forty-eight hours or more in the week or, if full time was less than forty-eight hours, who worked full time. Those tables present, therefore, approximately full time earnings.
*For the subject with which this investigation is concerned, averages would have almost no significance.