1990s >> 1992 >> no-1051-march-1992

50 Years Ago: Are The Workers Better Off During The War?

As far as it is possible to describe, what has taken place with regard to wages and prices, by means of figures, the position is fairly clear, it gives no support whatever to the claim that wages have outstripped the rise in the cost of living. The Ministry of Labour Cost of Living Index shows a rise from 155 in September, 1939, to 200 in February. 1942. This increase of 45 points represents a percentage rise of 29% above the level of September, 1939. As regards the level of wage rates for a normal weeks work, the Ministry of Labour Gazette (January, 1942) shows that the average increase due to wage increases and war bonuses since September. 1939, has been about 26% or 27%. it will be seen, therefore, that wages have barely kept pace with the rise of the cost of living index figure. If in some industries wages have risen by a larger percentage this is offset by the many industries in which the rise has been much smaller.

The critics who talk about high wages ignore the above official figures and either seize upon the few exceptional cases where the increase has been larger or else use a quite different set of figures which relate not to the standard wage for a normal week’s work but to earnings for the very long hours now being put in. earnings which include of course payment for overtime and Sunday work.

[From an article by ‘H’, Socialist Standard, March 1942.]