71 could not exist', wrote G.W.Walker to his son.

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 42-48)

68 operate most of the necessary equipment'.

71 could not exist', wrote G.W.Walker to his son.

One of the most susceptible groups were the fixed income workers such as the public servants. Teachers and professional men raised their fees, retailers their prices, artisans their daily rates, out government clerks on fixed incomes were left well behind, until they began to resign, not only to run after gold, but also to take up alternative work at home. In 1853 a gap-stopping regulation granted them a temporary surcharge:

^°T.A., No. 5 , February 1854? pp.168-171«

^ L e t t e r G.W.W. to J.B.W., 11 June 1853, Walker A (i) 2. See Appendix No. 3*

. . . S a l a r i e s o f £100 w e r e i n c r e a s e d t o £175 i n 1853 a n d t o £ 200 i n 1854* O f f i c i a l s who f o r m e r l y r e c e i v e d £ 400 p e r annum h a d t h e i r s t i p e n d s i n c r e a s e d t o £520 i n 1 8 5 3, a n d t o £ 6 2 0 i n 1 8 5 5? o t h e r s i n l i k e p r o p o r t i o n . An u n s t e a d y f a l l i n p r i c e s became c l e a r d u r i n g I856 a n d wages b e g a n t o f a l l a g a i n s o t h e o f f i c i a l wage r a t e s w e r e o n c e more 73 a d j u s t e d .

I n t h e s e t t l i n g down y e a r s a f t e r 1856 t h e r e was much i r r e g u l a r i t y o f p r i c e s a n d w a g e s . T h i s was d u e , i n p a r t , t o t h e p e r s i s t e n c e o f p r i v a t e b u i l d i n g s c h em e s an d c i t y d e v e l o p m e n t s s u c h a s t h e w a t e r w o r k s a n d t h e i n s t a l l a t i o n o f g a s - l a m p s , p i p e s , an d a l l t h e f i t t i n g s . The b a c k l o g o f t h e e x p a n s i o n , w h i c h h a d b een p l a n n e d w h i l s t p r o s p e c t s w e r e w i d e , t o o k a l m o s t t e n y e a r s t o be c o m p l e t e d . Most o f t h e i n s t a b i l i t y u n t i l t h e d e p r e s s i o n was due t o u n s e t t l e d m a r k e t c o n d i t i o n s a n d an u n e v e n l y d e c l i n i n g c o n s u m e r demand compounded b y s i g n i f i c a n t p r o b l e m s 75 o f l a b o u r s u p p l y . 72 F e n t o n , o p . c i t . , p p . 253 a n d 255» 7 3'A c o n s i d e r a b l e r e d u c t i o n i n t h e p r i c e o f t h e n e c e s s a r i e s o f l i f e h a v i n g t a k e n p l a c e s i n c e t h e t e m p o r a r y a u g m e n t a t i o n o f t h e S a l a r i e s o f G o v e rn me nt E m p lo y e s [ s i c ] a n d i t a p p e a r i n g i m p r o b a b l e t h a t a n y c o n s i d e r a b l e c h a n g e w i l l o c c u r a g a i n i n t h e c o s t o f l i v i n g i n t h e C o l o n y . . . f i n a l a d j u s t m e n t s o f t h e S a l a r i e s o f P u b l i c S e r v a n t s s h o u l d be e f f e c t e d . . . ’ - H. o f A . J . 1 8 5 6, P a p e r 2 0 . ^ 2nd A n n u a l R e p o r t H . T . B . S . 1 8 61 , p . 1 6 . ^ L e t t e r J . B . W . t o J o h n F o r d i n Y o r k , 10 J u n e I8 5 8, W a l k e r A ( i i ) l .

Changes in the Labour Force

At the census of 1 March I85I Tasmania was still a thoroughgoing penal colony. The continued importation of convicts had boosted the workforce of bhe Hobart Registration

if)

District Dy nearly 2,00U since tne 1847 census, whilst the numoer of dependants had remained almost constant. Only two months after the I85I census was taken gold was discovered, and the population was soon completely disturoed. Before the next census at the end of March 1857> the gold rushes had finished, and so had transportation so the changes in population were a result of both phenomena.

The workforce had fallen oy over 1,000 men, but a changing population structure, caused by aging and by the leaving oehind

of the dependants of transients, had more effect on tne 77

occupational structure than did emigration. The numoer of dependants rose by 2,500, so that the proportion of breadwinners fell from 35 Pei* cent at 1851 to 28 per cent at 1857* The

continuation of the process reduced the workforce to 22 per cent of the total population by 1861. This was reason enough for depression in any community.^'

^All calculations from Census Abstracts published in H . of A . J . 77

Appendix N o . 4* ^Appendix No. 2.

The s p e c i f i c a t i o n s o f o c c u p a t i o n s i n t h e c e n s u s e s o f t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y a r e n o t s u c h a s t o i n s p i r e c o n f i d e n t 79 s t a t e m e n t s o f t r e n d s r e v e a l e d hy t h e m. However, a l l d e s c r i p t i v e i n d i c a t i o n s a r e s u p p o r t e d by t h e g e n e r a l t e n d e n c y o f s t a t i s t i c a l f i g u r e s . A f t e r t h e w e a l t h o f t h e g o l d y e a r s t h e r e wer e s i g n i f i c a n t l y mor e g e n t l e m e n , m e r c h a n t s a n d p r o f e s s i o n a l s . But i m m e d i a t e l y f o l l o w i n g t h i s i n c r e a s e t h e o n s e t o f more d e p r e s s e d economy a t t h e same t i m e a s t h e w i t h d r a w a l o f t h e I m p e r i a l o f f i c e r s l e d t o a r e d u c t i o n i n t h e i r n u m b e r s e v e n g r e a t e r t h a n t h e p r e v i o u s r i s e . The n e t r e s u l t o v e r t h e d e c a d e was a h a l v i n g o f t h e s i z e o f t h e l o c a l p e t t y - a r i s t o c r a c y . The n um b e r o f r e t a i l d e a l e r s r o s e a f t e r t h e g o l d y e a r s , w i t i i a s l o w e r c o n t i n u a t i o n o f t h e r i s e i n t o t n e e i g h t e e n s i x t i e s . T h e i r p r o p o r t i o n o f t h e w o r k f o r c e w ent up r a p i d l y a s t h e n u m b e r s o f p e o p l e who w e r e b r e a d w i n n e r s f e l l , s o t h a t t h e d e p l e t e d w o r k f o r c e c o n t a i n e d a n i n f l a t e d p r o p o r t i o n o f n o n - p r o d u c e r s . The p r o d u c t i v e , m e c h a n i c a nd a r t i s a n c l a s s was a t i t s g r e a t e s t s t r e n g t h i n 1851 a n d t h e n f e l l uy one q u a r t e r b e f o r e l 8 6 l , w i t h o u t t h e g o l d m i g r a t i o n s a f f e c t i n g g e n e r a l t r e n d s . B u t a s o t h e r g r o u p s f e l l more r a p i d l y t h a n t h e m e c h a n i c g r o u p s , t h e i r p r o p o r t i o n o f t h e w o r k f o r c e a c t u a l l y r o s e s l i g h t l y a s t h e i r nu mb e rs d e c r e a s e d .

79

A p p e n d i x No. 2 .

Domestic service absorbed most of the increase in labour, which had produced the very large workforce in 1851* This group

responded very markedly to the gold emigrations - almost half had left their positions by 1857j and a slighter decrease continued into the late years of the decade. But, with the total workforce falling even faster, there was an actual

increase in the proportion of work people employed as servants between 1857 and 1861.

The figures available for this period are for the Hobart Registration District, and noc merely for the urban area. About a fifth of this population was engaged in non-uroan pursuits. This group suffered a mild decline before 1857> with an increase by 1861 in only the truly farming sections of tne group.

The net result on the workforce of ten years of change was a loss of half the gentry, a quarter of the mechanics, half the domestics, and little change in the number of shopkeepers. This decline took place in the face of an

increase of one fifth in the number of non-working dependants: children, their mothers, and the aged - all in all a very depressing situation for a newly sovereign capital city.

Emigration from Tasmania

80

There has been a standard description of the nature of migration from Tasmania after I85O which has the viruue of explaining away the depression of tne eighoeen sixties:

The better class of labouring people have emigrated largely to the other colonies and the moral state of those left is very low. They are lazy and

depraved, demanding high wages and doing bad work. The impossibility of getting really good labour acts, of course, on the enterprise of farmers and capitalists and prevents tnem undertaking things which, if good labour could be got at a moderate rate, would pay and help the colony forward. There is not a very large proportion of crime here, but a very large one of vice amongst both the old g^ hands and the generation growing up.

The strength 01 tne explanation is that it is partly true, but it is not the wnole suory. There was considerable

emigration from Tasmania, but it did not oegin with one gold rushes. Nor was the reversal of prosperity due merely bo an emigration selective of tne better class of working men.

If it was true, as so many people said, that the laoouring population suffered from all sorts of bad habios of lack of

thrift, a lack of interest in work and an apathy towards

82

improvement of their lot, it would not oe surprising, Decause

For example, Green, op.cit., p .6, out a contemporary opinion shows the situation 00 have not oeen so simple:

Denison, op.cit., p.ll.

81

Letter J.B.W. to unknown person, 23 September 1865, Walker A(ii)l.

82

T.A.Coghlan, Laoour and Industry in Australia, (London, 1918} Vol.II, p.771, quoting Governor T. Gore Browne, said that rhe workforce was 'very different, from onau whicii is oo De found in a colony that has always oeen free'.

a n y e m a n c i p i s t w i t h a n y n o u s e i t h e r i m p r o v e d h i s s r a t u s o r g o t o f f t h e i s l a n d v e r y q u i c k l y . Men who D o t h e r e d t o e s c a p e f o u n d i t e a s i l y a c c o m p l i s h e d , a n d a t t h e e n d o f t h e i r s e r v i t u d e t h e y w e r e made f r e e o f t h e c o l o n i e s a n y w a y . T h e r e was a s t e a d y s t r e a m o f e x - c o n v i c t e m i g r a n t s oo uhe

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 42-48)