The economics of mutuality: an analysis of trade union welfare systems in 19th century Britain

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    British artisan unions in the 19th century were welfare states in miniature, providing members with unemployment benefit, sick pay, superannuation and some provisions for death. The core of the paper describes the detailed operation of the welfare systems of two trade unions, both in engineering. Firstly, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) was the largest national union in Britain for most of the period and the model for many others; the analysis concentrates on the relationship between the scheme’s income and expenditure and the trade cycle. Secondly, the Steam Engine Makers’ Society (SEM) was only a tenth the size of the ASE and far less well known, but was always the ASE’s largest competitor for its core memberships among fitters and turners. The SEM is remarkable for the extremely detailed information which it published on individual members, and some initial results will be presented from a large nominal linkage analysis which permits analysis of variation in income from and payments to members over their life courses. The final section surveys provision across the union system as a whole, based mainly on surveys by the Board of Trade Labour Department in the 1890s and 1900s. The conclusion explores the relationship between the welfare benefit systems and more conventional trade union activities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998
    EventThe Economics of Giving - Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, United States
    Duration: 12 Nov 199814 Nov 1998


    ConferenceThe Economics of Giving
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


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