Minimum Wages for the Poor Class of the Industrial Revolution

Minimum Wages for the Poor Class of the Industrial Revolution

Joseph A. Montagna, who penned an essay entitled "The Industrial Revolution" for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, asserted that England's Industrial Revolution occurred between the years 1760 and 1850. For the poor class of the Industrial Revolution, bringing home the bacon was a family affair. During this time, entire families could be found working in factories just to make ends meet.

1 Wage for Children

In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, prior to the creation of the steam engine, orphans made up a huge chunk of the workforce, according to Carolyn Tuttle, Professor of Economics at Lake Forest College. This was because the old mills relied on water to create energy, and orphans could easily be relocated to remote or isolated areas where there was a lot of water. The mill owner would provide food and shelter in lieu of money. When the steam engine entered the picture, factories began to pop up in major cities and orphans no longer had to be relocated. Instead, poor families struggling to survive in these urban areas seized the opportunity to send their children to work in the factories. Though the children worked long hours, they earned very little. Jason Long, Associate Professor of Economics at Colby College, said that children working in factories in the 1850s earned between two and four shillings per week.

2 Wage for Women

Employers loved to hire women during the Industrial Revolution because they could pay them much less than their male counterparts, which meant more profit for the employers. While men would earn around 10 shillings for the same job, the average wage for women working in factories at that time was between five to seven shillings per week. The justification for disparity in pay came from the idea that men should earn more money because they were expected to provide for the family whereas any money that women earned was just to supplement what a man brought home.

3 Wage for Men

During the Industrial Revolution, the average man earned about 10 shillings per week. Though it seems low, it was much nearly double the average earnings of women and considerably more than double what the children would earn for work of a similar nature. While some skilled workers earned twice the average, the majority of workers were comprised of the poor class and were bringing in just enough to keep the family afloat. Even with all members of a family working, many families still struggled to make ends meet.

Samantha Herman earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northern Arizona University in 2005. Her professional writing career started in 2008, when she accepted an internship at "Willamette Week," a local alternative publication. Upon completing her internship, she became employed as a copywriter for an internet media company. In addition to copywriting, she has written articles for PDX Pipeline and eHow.