Work and Wages at a Melbourne Factory, the Guest Biscuit Works 1870–1921

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Abstract

The story of wages in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Australia has largely been told through official published statistics and the experiences of skilled artisans and construction labourers. Utilising wage book data from an early successful manufacturing plant – a biscuit factory – we reveal the earning histories of several neglected groups of Australian workers. We specifically investigate the effects of the 1890s depression, the introduction of a wages board, and shifting demographics on the wages of unskilled factory hands, women, juvenile workers, and commercial clerks. We demonstrate that typical Australian wage series studies have misinterpreted the impact of these phenomena.

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