Since there are such great differences in degrees of efficiency, the question naturally arises: What is the relation of efficiency to wages ? In the case of the two workers side by side, the more efficient one, if they were doing piece work, would get the higher wage. If, as is often the case, the two men had previously agreed to work for the same wage, then no difference would exist, the wages of either being not greater than the contribution of the less efficient to the product. Differences in wages may or may not occur when similar work is being carried on in different plants. Clearly, the workers in the better equipped plant will turn out a larger product than those in the poorer plant; yet if the difference is absorbed in paying for athletic fields, rest rooms, and other devices for securing efficiency, the employer has no more to distribute among his employees than does the owner of the poorer plant. We may say, however, with assurance, that physical conditions which contribute to efficiency usually earn more than their cost. When we compare the efficiency of one nation with that of another we are sure to find the most efficient group getting the largest wage. Coolie labor, which we have noticed as being inefficient, is poorly paid. A Chinese unskilled laborer can be employed for a few cents a day, and even at that he is highly paid, for his efficiency is extremely low.

A Group of School Children Being Fed at Public Expense.

Copyright Underwood & Underwood, New York

A Group of School Children Being Fed at Public Expense.

The relation between wages and industrial efficiency is mutual. Stupidity and awkwardness may result, as we noticed in the preceding chapter, from low wages. An underfed workman is in no shape to do his best. He is listless and he soon grows weary with his task. It is an easy matter to say to him that the way to secure an increased wage is to increase his efficiency. It is an entirely different matter, however, to persuade him to make additional efforts without providing him with sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to make the efforts possible. Fortunately, enterprisers like Henry Ford have had the courage to try the experiment of increasing efficiency by increasing wages; and we are told by unbiased observers that these experiments, particularly the one at the Ford plants, have succeeded. Here may be the solution of one of the most perplexing problems in American industrial life.