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NotE.—A few sentences of Fabian Tract No. 50 are incorporated above, by permission.

POSTSCRIPT.—The Wages Board Bill (see p. 13) was re-introduced by Mr. Henderson, and read a second time in the House of Commons, February 21st, 1908.

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Bibliography of "Sweating" and of the Legal Minimum Wage. 1906. National

Anti-Sweating League, 133 Salisbury.square, E.C. 3d. Report on the Sweating System in the East End of London. By JOHN BURNETT,

Labor Correspondent of the Board of Trade. 1887. P. S. King and Son. BOOTH, CHARLES.—Life and Labor of the People. Vol. 4, chap. x. 1887. Mac

millan. 7s.6d. Report on the Condition of Nail Makers and Small Chain Makers in South Stafford

shire and East Worcestershire. By the Labor Correspondent of the Board of

Trade. 1888. P. S. King and Son. Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Sweating System.

With Minutes of Evidence. 1888-1890. P. S. King and Son. HOBSON, J. A.--Problems of Poverty. 1891. Methuen and Co. Schloss, D. F.-Methods of Industrial Remuneration. 1898. Williams. 7s.6d. WEBB, SIDNEY and BEATRICE.-Industrial Democracy. Second edition. 1901.

Longmans. 125. net. WEBB, Mrs. SIDNEY (editor).-Case for the Factory Acts. 1902. Richards. CADBURY, E., M. C. MATHESON, and G. SHANN.-Women's Work and Wages [in

Birmingham]. 1906. Unwin. 6s. Women's Industrial Council. Interim Report on Home Industries of Women in

London. 1906. 7 John-street, W.C. 6d. International Association for Labor Legislation. Report on Home Work by Mrs.

RAMSAY MACDONALD, presented to the Geneva Conference, 1906. Home Office. Return as to the Administration by the Local Authorities of the

Factory and Workshops Act of 1901. 1906. P. S. King and Son. Handbook of Sweated Industries Exhibition. 1906. Daily News Office. 6d. National Anti-Sweating League. Report of Conference held at the Guildhall, City

of London, October 1906. BARRAULT, H. E.-La Réglementation du Travail à Domicile en Angleterre. 1906.

Librairie de la Société du Recueil, 22 Rue Soufflot, Paris. Report of Select Committee of the House of Commons on Home Work. Minutes of

Evidence. 1907. BLACK, CLEMENTINA.–Sweated Industry. 1907. Duckworth. 35. 6d. net. West Ham: a Study in Social and Industrial Problems. 1907. J. M. Dent. 6s. net.

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8 Clement's Inn, Strand, London w O.

THE

DECLINE in the BIRTH-RATE

By SIDNEY WEBB.

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March 1907.

THE DECLINE IN THE

BIRTH-RATE.

Ox the 26th of May, 1903, a sub-committee of the Fabian Society was appointed with a curt reference—" to consider birth-rate and infantile mortality statistics"--with a view to investigate certain social phenomena of importance. The investigations of the subcommittee were directed first to the decline in the birth-rate ; and as they led to conclusions of interest and importance, an informal interim report was, by direction of the Executive Committee, drawn up by one of its members—the facts and suggestions being put by the author in his own way, upon his sole responsibility—and communicated by him to the Times,* whence it was reprinted by the [American] Popular Science Monthly. The sub-committee is continuing its labors, but, for the convenience of members and others, the substance of the informal interim report is now reproduced in more accessible form, without the Fabian Society as a whole being committed to its suggestions.

The phenomenon to be investigated was the decline in the number and proportion to population of the children born in Great Britain. Such a decline had long been an object of desire in certain quarters. “If only the devastating torrent of children could be arrested for a few years," wrote one of the most sympathetic friends of progress, not so very long ago, voicing the opinion of the economists from Malthus to Fawcett, "it would bring untold relief."! Not many years have passed, and his aspiration is fulfilled. One of His Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, lately revisiting, after some interval, a public elementary school in the centre of London, remarked that, since he was there before, without any alteration in the school regulations, the babies' class" had ceased to exist. Between 1896 and 1905 the total population of the County of London is estimated to have increased by 300,000 persons. But the total number of children between three and five years of age who were scheduled by the vigilant school-attendance officers positively fell from 179,426 to 174.359. That this scheduling was fairly exhaustive is shown by the fact that

* The report appeared in the Times of the unth and 18th October, 1906 ; and in the Popular Science Monthly for December, 1906. Besides many articles and notices in the principal newspapers during October, 1906, it elicited articles, in confirmation or controversy,' in the Fortnightly Review (by Montague Crackenthorpe, K.C.) and Nineteenth Century (by J. W. Barclay) for December, 1906.

The Service of Man; by J. Cotter Morison, preface, p. xx.

there were almost exactly 5,000 fewer children of that age recorded in the London census of 1901 compared with that of 1891. Nor is this either an isolated or a temporary phenomenon. All over England and Wales the birth-rate is falling steadily, in a decline which has already lasted thirty years, and which shows no sign of slackening. In 1876, to every 100,000 of the population there were born 3,630 babies. In 1904, to every 100,000 of the population there were born only 2,796—absolutely the lowest number on record since birth registration began.*

1. This decline in the birth-rate is not merely the result of air alteration in the ages of the population, or in the number or proportion of married women, or in the ages of these.

It is necessary at the outset to remove one possible explanation. What the Registrar-General gives us is the crude birth-rate-that is to say, the exact proportion of births during the year to the total population, whether old or young, married or single. But in comparing these birth-rates for different years, we have to remember that important changes may take place, even in a single decade, in (a) the proportion between children and adults ; (b) the proportion between married and unmarried ; and (c) the proportion between married women of the reproductive age and those above that age. These changes—due, it may be, to emigration or immigration, to economic or social developments, or to mere prolongation of the average lifeare sufficient, in themselves, to produce a rise or a fall in the crude birth-rate, without there having been any increase or decrease in human fertility. To give one striking instance, the crude birth-rate of Ireland per 100,000 population fell from 2,384 in 1881 to 2,348 in 1901. But we happen to know that in the course of these twenty years the proportion of married women of reproductive age to the total population so far diminished that the slight fall in the crude birth-rate really represented, not a decline, but a positive increase in fertility. If the Ireland of 1901 had contained a population made up by ages, sexes and marital conditions, in the same proportion as that of 1881, the recorded births in 1901 would have appeared as a birth-rate actually higher by three per cent. than that of 1881. We have, therefore, first to ask what are the corresponding figures for England and Wales, eliminating all the elements of variations of age, of postponement of marriage, and of positive refusal to marry.t

Now, it so happens that this problem has lately been worked out by the statisticians in a way to remove all uncertainty. Dr. Arthur Newsholme and Dr. T. H.C. Stevenson on the one hand, and Mr. G. Udny Yule on the other, have performed the laborious task of “correcting" the crude birth-rates for differences of age, sex and

* Sixty-seventh Annual Report of the Registrar-General, 1906, p. xix.

† I have restricted myself throughout to legitimate births. The number of illegitimate births in England and Wales is now only 112 per 10,000 of the population, and their omission does not affect the result. Their inclusion would merely have intensified the force of the argument at all points. The corrected illegitimate birth-rate fell between 1861 and 1881 by 21 per cent., and between 1881 and 1901 by 41 per cent.--more than twice as fast as the correct legitimate birth-rate.

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