The Impact of British Industrial Revolution on the Quality of Laborers' Life
The high supply of unskilled labor in the urban centers helped to keep wages profitably low for the factory owners that demanded their employment. Capital was highly mobile as the the working class was on a subsistence level and could not afford to own their own dwellings. Due to this high mobility of labor, workers migrate with their families from city to city in search of the best possible employment and a suitable environment in which to raise their families.
During this period, laborers had no power of collective bargaining and were often stepped on by the capitalists who reaped the rewards of high profits due to the rising productivity and low wage growth. Before industrialization, the majority of low skilled workers were farm laborers. They had to work to support their families by growing their own food, working for others during the harvest season and operating craft workshops during the off season.
Industrialization helped stabilize the incomes of farmers, but the transition to wage earning during this time kept the laborers at a lower level. The working class was unable to save or invest to advance to higher levels in British society. They were also unable to collectively organize to bring improvements in the conditions of the workplace, as well as wages. Wages remained relatively low throughout the stages of the Industrial Revolution.
There was difficulty obtaining food, particularly meat, and affordable rental housing for a majority of the working class in Britain. Often, families were unable to afford proper housing and were forced to live in atrocious conditions sharing one family rental with around 20 other people. It was not uncommon at the time to find entire families sharing a single bed as wages were not high enough to accommodate a better lifestyle.
Factory owners were unconcerned with the needs or lifestyle of their workers as they could easily substitute a sick worker with a healthy one due to the abundant supply of labor. Not all factories were bad considered to be places to work, but many were dangerous. Workers were faced with strict discipline that was enforced by the factory owners.
Women and children were often forced to work to make ends meet. However, their wages were only fractionally as high as the typical adult male wage. ‘Many children were sent there from workhouses or orphanages to work long hours in hot, dusty conditions and were forced to crawl through narrow spaces between fast-paced machinery.' A 12 hour work day was usual, and accidents occurred often.
Overall, the quality of living for the working class decreased dramatically compared to life in rural conditions. Workers during this period suffered greatly at the cost of industrialization.
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