1896.VICTORIA. 

REPORT OF THE CHIEF INSPECTOR OF FACTORIES, WORK ROOMS AND SHOPS

FURNITURE TRADE AND CHINESE FACTORIES.

The furniture trade has suffered severely, not only on account of the general

depression, but also by reason of the competition of the Chinese workers. Only 663

persons, including 266 Chinese, were employed in the furniture factories last year.

These figures do not, moreover, give an accurate indication of the state of the cabinet

trade, as upholsterers and chair-makers are included, and Chinese do not interfere with

these trades. At the close of last year the actual number of persons engaged in

cabinetmaking was 338, viz., 97 Europeans and 241 Chinese.

The wages paid to European adults engaged in cabinetmaking average

£1 9s. 10d., and to Chinese £1 Is. 10d. Particulars will be found in Appendix B.

Most of the Chinese admit to working at least 60 hours per week, but the Europeans

only work 48 hours. When these facts are considered it is a matter for wonder that

any Europeans are engaged in the trade.

As stated last year the Chinese began by driving the majority of the European

workers out of the market. Having accomplished this they proceeded to carry on a

cutting down of price policy against one another. The result has been that many of

the better class Chinese manufacturers would welcome legislation which would

terminate a system of commercial warfare. Some of the proprietors of the larger

Chinese factories have proposed the imposition of a heavy annual licence-fee, with

the object of closing the smaller class of workshops and preventing the men working

in their own homes. In this, as in nearly all other trades, it is the small work-rooms

and home workers who are blamed for the cutting down of prices.

The mere stamping of furniture would do little to improve matters; my reason

for making this statement is that the general public does not appear to consider the

question of race or of injury done to the workers by purchasing the cheapest article.

A proof of this is given by the very large increase in Chinese laundries during the past

few years. This class of work was formerly done by widows with families to support.

It is essentially women's work. These facts are notorious ; yet in every suburb we

find Chinese laundries and the work given to Chinese men instead of to one of the 

hardest working and most deserving class of women in the country. Many excellent

laundry women can now get very little work to do, whilst their Chinese competitors

are busy night and day.

the mere stamping of furniture would probably not therefore materially assist

the European workers, and nothing short of fixed hours of work for both Chinese and

Europeans could possibly put them on a fair footing. Even then the Chinese would

have a considerable advantage, as they seldom have either homes or families to keep,

and can live where Europeans would starve.

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