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War-time wage increases: miners’ earnings up by 91 per cent

March 5, 1946

In recent years coalminers’ wages have increased substantially more than those in other industries, so far as one can judge from the Ministry of Labour’s latest half-yearly statistical return of average earnings and working hours. The return is published in the new issue of the “Ministry of Labour Gazette.”

Most of the figures now made available refer to last July, when the Far Eastern war was still in progress and post-war cuts in overtime earnings had scarcely begun to operate.

Average weekly earnings for the third week of July last year and for a total of more than 5,250,000 manual workers in industry are shown at £4 16s 1d, the percentage increase since October 1938 being 80 per cent. The men’s average seven months ago - it is almost certainly less now - was £6 1s 4d, a 76 per cent increase on October, 1938.

Comparative coal-mining figures are compiled not by the Labour Ministry, but by the Ministry of Fuel. For the three months ended last September miners’ average cash earnings per week are estimated to have been £5 7s. This figure compares with £2 16s 2d for the three months ended September, 1939 - an increase of about 91 per cent.

There was an even bigger Increase - about 109 per cent - between 1939 and 1945 earnings per man-shift worked. In July last year the average weekly earnings of adult male miners were £5 13s 7d with allowances in kind averaging 3s 10d.

For railwaymen, the average for a single week in March, 1945 was £5 16s 10d - an increase of about 70 per cent on March, 1939. Dock labourers in the three months July- September last, averaged £6 17s 7d weekly - the highest figure of all.

The average working week last July for all classes of workers covered was 47.4 hours, compared with 46.5 hours in October, 1938. Seven months ago men were still working a weekly average of 49.7 hours.

A table of average weekly earnings during the war years shows that the highest level reached by men was £6 4s 4d in July, 1944. It is estimated that, excluding “extra” earnings, the average level of wage rates was 43 per cent higher in July last year, than October, 1938.

In the textile industries, men’s weekly wages last July averaged £5 4s 7d, boys £2 5s, women £2 13s 2d, and girls £1 18s. 5d percentage wage increases since October, 1938, are shown as follows:- Men, 83; boys, 88; women. 83; girls. 95. Average hours for adult male workers last July were 50.1, an increase compared with October, 1938. of 47.7 per cent.

The total working population of 20,969,000 last December was greater than mid-1939 by 1,219.000, but 1,312,000 fewer than the peak period of mid-1943.

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