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Table 2 shows the relative importance of the cash and check methods of wage payment, by length of pay period. It will be noted that while more than two-thirds (68.3 per cent) of the establishments had a weekly pay period they employed only 56.0 per cent of the total number of workers and their combined pay rolls formed but 55.2 per cent of the total. The firms which paid semimonthly employed 39.3 per cent of the workers and disbursed 41.3 per cent of the total wages bill.
TABLE 2.-RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF CASH AND CHECK METHODS OF WAGE PAY.
MENT, BY LENGTH OF PAY PERIOD
General Survey of Wages in Belgium' HE depression which is affecting all of Belgium's commerce and
industry is the cause of such extensive disorganization that at the present no definite wages can be quoted for any of the branches of industry, because the unemployed workers who are receiving unemployment-insurance benefits are obliged to accept the work offered to them at the employment exchange, at the wages and under the conditions fixed by the employers, regardless of the basic scale of wages fixed by the commissions and even in some cases by the collective agreement, under penalty of losing all further rights to unemployment benefits.
In order to give a concrete idea of the wage situation there is submitted below a schedule of the principal reductions of wages effected in the course of the year 1930. These reductions have been followed by others no less inportant in the course of 1931.
Mines: July, 1930, a reduction of 5 per cent; in October, 1930, a further reduction of 4 per cent; and in January, 1931, á further reduction of 5 per cent demanded by the employers.
Steel: December, 1930, a reduction of 5 per cent.
Iron: November, 1930, a reduction of 5 per cent demanded by the employers.
Mechanical construction: December, 1930, a reduction of 10 per cent demanded by the employers.
Stone and granite: November, 1930, a reduction the rate of which is not known.
The above reductions have been followed by others in almost all branches of industry throughout the country, among which the reductions in the glass, leather, textile, and building industries must be noted. The same applies to all branches of shipping activity, which, in certain centers such as Antwerp, are vital factors in the economic life.
Hours of Labor Hours of labor are controlled in Belgium by a law which dates from June 14, 1921. This law fixes the hours of labor at 8 per day and 48 per week.
The following industries are subject to the application of this law:
(1) Mines, surface workings, quarries, and extractive works of all kinds.
(2) Industries occupied in the manufacture of merchandise, the transformation of raw materials or products, their ornamentation or finishing, cleaning, and application with a view to sale.
(3) The repair, cleaning, and overhaul of plants and equipment, effects or other used objects, as well as the demolition of plants equipment.
(4) Building industries and industries connected therewith, including work of upkeep, repair, and demolition. (5) Public-works enterprises.
1 This study of Belgian wages was furnished by Marion Letcher, American consul general, and R. G. Vandelyen, Antwerp; Manson Gilbert, American vice consul, and D. Russell, Brussels, and Courtland Christiani, American vice consul, Ghent. 91909'-32-11
(6) Private-engineering enterprises other than those falling under the heading of building industries.
(7) Gas plants and waterworks.
(8) The production, transformation, and transmission of electricity and motive power.
(9) The construction, transformation, and demolition of ships and boats, and their upkeep and repair by other workers than members of the crew.
(10) Overland transport.
(11) The work of loading, unloading, and handling of merchandise in ports, wharves, warehouses, and stations.
(12) Dairies and creameries.
In addition to the above industries and trades affected by this law, the following were afterwards, with some modifications, brought under its application: (1) Retail shops; (2) hotels, restaurants, and drinking places; and (3) workmen and employees, other than office employees, engaged in commercial enterprises.
For underground labor such as in mines, the time taken up in the descent of the worker to and ascent from his place of work is included in the 8 hours of labor per day. When the works are accessible by galleries, the time counted begins from the time the worker enters the gallery until the time of his return to the same point.
The law provides for certain modifications or variations of the 8-hour day or 48-hour week in stated cases. Thus, an amendment to the law allows the granting of the Saturday half holiday and this has been adopted in many industries. In such cases the law stipulates that the working limit of 48 hours per week still holds good but that the working hours per day may be extended from 8 to 9 hours on the other days in order to make up for the time lost on Saturday afternoon. An extension of the work week is allowed in unusual situations, as, for instance, in the tailoring trade. The tailors are allowed to work 54 hours a week during certain seasons, while during other periods they are allowed to work only 42 hours weekly. Again, in some circumstances, the working hours may be prolonged from 48 to 56 per week over a period of 3 weeks. This extension applies particularly to works which may not be interrupted owing to their nature, such as in those industries where continuous furnaces are employed. By royal decree this extension of hours may be permitted over a longer period than 3 weeks.
The limitations of the legal hours of labor may be suspended by the King (a) in case of war or national danger, or (b) in case of national necessity, to assure the exportation of means of exchange indispensable for the importation of articles of subsistence.
The law also forbids in principle work between 8 p. m. and 6 a. m. This limitation, however, does not apply to the following professions, trades, and industries: (1) Hotel offices and places of entertainment; (2) journalists and newspapers; (3) information bureaus; (4) land transport; (5) loading, unloading, and handling of merchandise in ports, wharves, warehouses, and railway stations; (6) repair and upkeep of ships; (7) gas plants and water works; (8) the production,
transformation, and transmission of electricity and motive power; (9) enterprises where the materials worked are susceptible to rapid change or loss through too long an interruption in the work; (10) works of which the execution may not, owing to their nature, be interrupted or retarded; and (11) enterprises where the work is organized for successive gangs.
The legislation on working hours also provides that women and all workers under a certain age, in some cases 17 and in others 19 years of age for the male workers, are not to be employed at night work. Work done after 8 p. m. is generally considered as night work, but in some cases night work is only that undertaken after
Overtime The law also provides in certain circumstances for overtime. Among these may be cited: (1) Lighting of boiler fires, (2) starting of generators, (3) reassembly of tools and returning same to stores, (4) work undertaken owing to accidents which have occurred or may be imminent, (5) urgent works to be effected on plant or equipment owing to unforeseen circumstances. The hours of work of workmen occupied on such labor must not exceed by more than two hours per day those of workers on regular time.
Payment for Overtime and Holidays OVERTIME is paid for as follows: (1) 25 per cent more than the ordinary rate for the first two hours of overtime, and (2) 50 per cent more than the regular rate thereafter.
Sunday work must be paid for at double the ordinary rates.
In all industries in which the workers are paid by the week or month, the legal holidays are counted as workdays, and are paid for as such, although no work is accomplished. Some of these industries also give a certain number of paid days of vacation per year; this system has not, however, been applied as yet to the branches of industry in which the workers are paid by the hour or by the piece.
There is also what might be termed the "compensatory holiday." Thus, the law provides for the granting of paid holidays to workmen working two hours overtime per day. These holidays may not be less than 26 days per year. For those working less than two hours overtime per day, a royal decree decides for what period paid holidays should be accorded.
Short-Time Work SINCE the effects of the world-wide economic depression have spread over Europe, many of the larger industries in Belgium have been obliged to introduce short-time work. This has been done with a view to clearing stocks by decreasing production, and where surplus stocks do not exist production has been diminished, owing to the fact that the demand is insufficient to consume the output of normal times. Hours of labor of normal times have in some cases been reduced by half, and in others by two-thirds. This action has naturally had the effect of increasing the number of unemployed and especially the partially unemployed.
The slump in trade and industry has therefore had the effect of nullifying the practice of overtime which, in the period of trade boom, was not uncommon.
Payments Supplementary to Wages Some industries make certain supplements to wages. Thus in the coal mines married workers receive 8 hundredweights of coal per month and widows of miners who have at least one bachelor son working in the mines are also entitled to the same payment in kind.
In some industries, as in brick making, houses are provided for certain members of the personnel, in the vicinity of the works, but these are rented by the workers, although the rents paid are naturally lower than those paid for workmen's cottages in other than the industrial districts.
The providing of land for gardens is uncommon in most industrial areas, as the workmen's cottages in these districts usually possess a small garden. In a few districts, however, where rough land is available, such an allotment of land is made, but the gift of such a garden may be said to be rare.
Workers in unhealthful conditions, receive a regular augmentation of wages which amounts to 50 per cent of the normal wages, for the time they have worked under unhealthful conditions. (The unhealthful conditions are determined by one of the legally instituted commissions.) In dangerous work, such as in the building industry, when a height of 20 meters is reached, the laborers receive a special indemnity which varies according to the height, between 25 and 50 per cent of the normal wages.
Some plants also pay a "production bonus," i. e., a bonus paid to the laborer in proportion to his efficiency, in the employer's discretion. Such bonuses are very frequent in some of the branches of industry.
Deductions from Wages Wage tar.-Workers' wages in Belgium are affected by a Government tax which is levied on all salaried classes. This tax is known as the "taxe professionnelle" and varies according to the number of inhabitants of the communes in which the workers are engaged. These communes are classified as follows: (1) Communes of 30,000 inhabitants and more; (2) communes of from 5,000 to 30,000 inhabitants; and (3) communes of less than 5,000 inhabitants.
Special rates are calculated for wages paid to workers by the week, fortnight, or by the month, and special deductions are made according to the number of the worker's dependents. For example, in a commune with from 5,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, if the average wage of workers in the various industries is taken as 337 Belgian francs, or $9.37 per week, the weekly wage-tax deduction would be as follows: No dependents.
5.25 francs (14.6 cents) 1 dependent
4.50 francs (12.5 cents) 2 dependents
4.00 francs (11.2 cents) 3 dependents.
3.00 francs (8.3 cents) 4 dependents.
1.50 francs (4.2 cents) More than 4 dependents
No tax The average wage tax paid by workers would therefore appear to be 3.65 Belgian francs or 10.1 cents per week.
Social-insurance contributions. In addition to the "taxe professionnelle" there is another Government levy which affects the wage of the workers, in the form of an insurance against premature death and old age. The average amount paid by workers in Belgium for this insurance is 12.50 francs or 34.8 cents per month. : ('or versions into l'nited States currency on basis of franc=2.78 cents.