Population and Pauperism

According to a statistical abstract issued by the Board of Trade, the United Kingdom was in 1905 fifth amongst the nations of the world in point of population, being exceeded by Russia, the United States, Germany, and—strange to say—Japan. “Whereas we had 43,221,000 people in 1905, compared with 39,221,000 in 1895, the corresponding figures relating to Japan are 47,975,000 and 42,271,000 respectively. Many people, including the Bishops, profess to be seriously alarmed at the decrease in our birthrate ; but the curious thing is that those who are most concerned about our birth-rate are doing their best to further reduce the population by promoting schemes for emigration. If such schemes only dealt witb “undesirables,” they would be an unmixed blessing ; but their promoters are only too careful to let it be known that “No wastrels need apply” ; and, as a matter of fact, such would not be accepted on the other side, even if they managed to elude observation on this. What, then, is going on is that the bone and sinew of the country is being sent away, while the weaklings are left behind to swell our workhouse population and crowd the shelters of the Salvation Army.

We have no means of knowing how pauperism is dealt with in the other countries of the world ; but our own poor we have “always with us.” It would appear, from a recent return, that there are at present in London more than 128,000 paupers, or at the rate of 26 per 1,000 of the population, this mass of pauperism being greater than in any year since 1872, except 1904 and 1905. It appears, too, that while out-door pauperisn is decreasing, the rush to the workhouse continues, and that there are now in the London workhouses 78,603 paupers—which is the highest number ever recorded. Many of the workhouses are either overcrowded or full, and the Guardians are at their wits’ end to know how to deal with the overflow. The ratio of paupers differs in a remarkable manner in the different workhouse centres of the Metropolis. Thus in Hampstead it is as low as 8.5 per 1,000, while in the Strand it is as high as 76.4 and in Holborn as 49.4. Again, 15.1 in Fulham compares with 47.5 in Poplar and 47.3 in Bermondsey; while Wandsworth is as low as 17.1 and Camberwell (in the same district) as high as 32.9. In the Western district Paddington comes out at 15.8 and Chelsea at 31.2, or just double; while Kensington at 17.0 compares with St. George’s at 29.3, and with Westminster at 24.8. No doubt there must always be a wide range in districts so differently circumstanced; but the excessive ratios in the Strand and Holborn seem to call for special explanation. Outside London the number of paupers relieved on July 1, 1906, was 731,344, and this, added to the number in London, makes a grand total of 865,794 for the United Kingdom, being at the rate of 25.1 per 1,000 of the population, as compared with 26 in London alone.

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