The evolution of legislative regulation of child labor in the Russian Empire in the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries

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Государство и право. Юридические науки


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УДК 94(47)"1850/1917″: 316. 346. 32−053. 5:331
I.V. Sinova
The evolution of legislative regulation of child labor in the Russian Empire in the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries
Эволюция законодательной регламентации детского труда в Российской империи во второй половине XIX — начале XX в.
The article describes the evolution of the legislation on the employment of minors in the second half of XIX — early XX centuries is Shown as the formation of capitalist relations, the intensification of the labor movement, in combination with periodic concessions on the part of manufacturers with successive government response, influenced the change of factory laws. They touched on the limitations of age, working time and occupational safety and health, at the same time improved working conditions, increased wages.
В статье рассмотрена эволюция законодательства о труде несовершеннолетних во второй половине XIX — начале XX вв. Показано как формирование буржуазных отношений, активизация рабочего движения, в сочетании с периодическими уступками со стороны фабрикантов чередовавшимися с правительственной реакцией, повлияли на изменение фабричных законов. Они коснулись ограничения возраста, времени работы и охраны труда, одновременно улучшились условия трудовой деятельности, повысилась заработная плата.
Key words: children, child labour, young workers, factory laws, students craft workshops.
Ключевые слова: дети, детский труд, малолетние рабочие, фабричные законы, ученики ремесленных мастерских.
There was no general industrial legislation in the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century. This fact greatly inhibited the development of industrial and handicraft production. Nevertheless the formation of bourgeois relations, the labor movement stirring up in conjunction with the periodic concessions from manufacturers alternating with Government’s reaction have affected the evolution of the industrial legislation in the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
Industrial laws of the Russian Empire distinguished three groups of minors: 1. Children under 12 — were forbidden to recruit-
© Sinova I.V., 2015
2. Juveniles at the age of 12 to 15 years — most of regulations on labor protection (prohibition of night work, limitation of working hours, etc.) applied to this group-
3. Teenagers at the age of 15 to 17 years — whose labor was protected significantly less than the labor of children and juveniles. As soon as the worker had achieved the age of 17, he considered to be an adult [1, p. 7].
The entrepreneurs of Saint-Petersburg point of view for the use of child and teenagers labor differed from those of industry representatives from other regions of Russia and first of all the Central district, which determined the development of disputes relating to the restrictive legislation on juveniles.
The first congress of manufacturers was held in the 1870th in Saint-Petersburg. During this congress the debate about the work and school education of the juvenile worker was started. It revealed two different points of view for the child labor that showed an increasing competition between St. Petersburg and Moscow-Vladimir region. The congress adopted a resolution aimed to limit the labor of minors:" so that limiting the number of working hours for adults and minors and admission of recent to work in the new charter of the factory and the factory industry has been agreed with the guidelines drawn up recently on the subject in other states" [6, p. 306].
Industry representatives from Central Russia told that a lot of enterprises would have to stop all their activity if the government produced the regulations restricting work of minors. «The question is, what will the families do, if children don’t work under 17 years? … It is clear what they will do: those families, who don’t work in a factory, indulge in drinking or go begging. I don’t see any reason not to admit them to work — usually they work from 6 am till 12 pm so they do not work for more than 12 hours per day» [2, p. 72].
The first factory legislation was the Highest approved opinion of the State Council of the 1st June, 1882 «About minors working in the factories and manufactories» initiated by the Minister of Finance N. Bunge. The law claimed: «To establish the following rules relatively to minors:
1. Children under 12 years old are not permitted to work.
2. Juveniles at the age of 12 to 15 years are prohibited to work more than 8 hours per day not including the time needed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, schools and leisure. Moreover the work shouldn’t continue more than 4 hours in a raw.
3. Juveniles under 15 years are prohibited to work between 9 pm and 5 am, as well as on Sundays and highly solemn days.
4. Juveniles under 15 years are prohibited to admit to production or/and works that are harmful to their health, or should be considered a debilitating for them. The list of such factories, manufactories, and
definition of age (under 15 years old) under which the work of juveniles in mentioned enterprises is not allowed, to be determined by mutual agreement of the Ministers of Finance and Internal Affairs.
5. The owners of the fabrics, factories and manufactories are required to provide working children the opportunity to attend educational institutions. For education should be spared 3 hours per day or 18 hours per week. Such possibility is provided for children who don’t have certificate completion of zemstvo’s school or some other school of equal status [7. D. 5013. L. 3].
The law was put in force starting from the May 1883 but didn'-t apply for all craft institutions and didn'-t stop the practice of the work of children under 12 years, as well as children work at nights in all branches of industry labor. This gradual law practice was proof that the government was far from thinking to cause substantial or unexpected damage for industry.
Special inspection under the Ministry of Finance to the Department of Commerce and Manufactures was set up to control the execution of work and education of working children decrees. Inspectors were to: «1. monitor the implementation of regulations about attending classes and zemstvo schools by working children. 2. arrange reports about violation of the decrees with the participation of the local police and transfer these protocols to the pertaining judicial establishments. 3. accuse the perpetrators of offenses in court» [7. D. 5013. L. 3−3 ob.]. The first chief inspector of factory inspection was E. Andreev.
As for handicraft enterprises, the attempt to apply the law of June 1, 1882 to them has failed. The project remained unrealized, and the children started studying mainly at an age which was dictated by their parents' income and production conditions. Handicraftsmen concealed age of children working on them and objected to the legislative regulation in respect of working children. All-Russian Congress of handicraftsmen in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896 rejected a proposal to improve living conditions of handicraft students. The Congress has passed a resolution not to set up the age limit of admission to the craft production.
The first factory inspectors had to endure a tough struggle against the owners. Even in the St. Petersburg, one of the most progressive regions, they faced the industrialists who tried to prevent inspections of their manufactures pretending that they did not have such a young workers. They harshly expressed their protest and even threatened complaint to the Ministry of Finance. However, during the inspection the juveniles were found hidden in attics, latrines and other places with the privity of the factory administration.
The materials of factory inspection represent the decreasing level of child labor at the factories. In general it was true. The laws restricting the employment of children, were observed anyhow. But that did not mean
that practically the law was not avoided somehow and that children did not actually work more than they did according to these witness reports of the inspectors. The monitoring compliance with the law still remained weak, impunity encouraged contempt for the law.
In April, 1884 the State Council adopted a resolution, according to which: «1. owners and stewards of factories and manufactories responsible for the violations of rules, regarding work of minors in these institutions, are arrested for a period not exceeding one month or a monetary penalty not exceeding one hundred rubles- 2. in case of not providing minors to attend school for a set time, a penalty of not more than one hundred rubles» [2, p. 96]. However manufacturers were not afraid of penalties.
In June, 1884 a law on the school education of children was passed. The law of 1882, admitted 6 hours of continuous work of children instead of 8-hour (for four hours with a break), was amended. The law «On the prohibition of night work of minors and women in factories and manufactories» appeared in June, 1885. According to this, night work on cotton, linen and woolen fabrics was forbidden for teenagers under 17 years old. In October, 1885, the Minister of Finance has got the opportunity to distribute law’s effect on other sectors.
Legislative acts regarding working children were an indicator of the relation of forces of separate class groups as a whole in the country, and in St. Petersburg in particular. Entrepreneurs forced to cut working hours for children and juveniles, immediately held a proportional reduction in their salaries. Those juveniles whose working hours were reduced by one-third (from 12 to 8 hours), after reduction earned three times less than before it [4, p. 86].
After the publication of the Law of 3rd of June, 1885, commission headed by V. Plehve has drafted the project of regulations «On the employment of workers at factories and manufactories» and «Special rules on Mutual Relations between manufacturers and workers», which were approved in June 3, 1886. This was done under the pressure and at the request of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. These regulations have drastically changed the conditions of employment of the workers, and therefore juveniles, which existed before.
The law of 24th of April, 1890, appeared in a very competitive environment between the manufacturers from St. Petersburg and central region. This law has suspended development of the labor legislation and has significantly expanded the rights of entrepreneurs to exploit juveniles.
According to the decree of October 4, 1888, all previously issued temporary regulations on work of children and juveniles had effect only until January 1, 1890. By this time, the authorities assumed to establish the final content of restrictive labor laws for juveniles basing on the
materials about the consequences of all actions previously taken in this field.
In 1890, the Minister of Finance I. Vyshnegradsky introduced a bill that weakened the value of the laws of the 1880s. After this, working children could be involved in working process during 9 hours in two shifts for 4,5 hours.
In the XIX-XX centuries the laws about children’s labor, and in particular in relation to the duration of their working day, while implementing, used to take ugly forms alien to the interests of the workers. Manufacturers of St. Petersburg, due to competition, demanded restrictive rules without worsening the working conditions for juvenile, since it was not profitable. On the other hand, the industrialists of the Central region, for which an underage labor laws were of a threatening nature, tried to reduce the value of these laws to a minimum. As it couldn'-t be done legally, they used to hide underage workers and transfer them to the next age group or just ignored the law and increased the number of working hours [3, p. 136].
Under the influence of the events of 1905 the government began to hastily develop laws on the labor question, hoping to delay the revolutionary movement. But the industrial bourgeoisie, demanded political concessions from the government, did not agree to give up at least part of their rights and opportunities, and therefore did not support the government in its endeavors, that is why the projects of 1905−1907 were not approved and were forgotten later.
The government at the turn of XIX-XX centuries had to balance between the interests of manufacturers and a growing labor movement. It tried to cause the least inconvenience to industrialists giving the impression of the progressive movement of the legislation in respect of protection of child labor… At the beginning of the XX century technological innovations greatly affected the equipment on factories and manufacturers. If before mechanization helped manufactories to get rid of using 'muscular force' and to employ juveniles instead, then after the invention of high-technology machines, the production required trained and technically conscious worker to do work [2, p. 120]. Due to these changes, underage workers were gradually supplanted by women and juveniles aged 14−17 years.
An emergency meeting was convened in February 1907. During this meeting manufacturers again made an effort to change the age criteria of children and juveniles and the limitation of working hours. Special attention was payed to the question of the night-time work. According to the law of 1882 a night — time work was defined as an interval between 9 pm and 5 am. The project of the Ministry proposed to assign night-time as time between 10 pm and 4 am. Thus, this proposal was a step backward compared with the existed norms. As a result of discussions,
night time was assigned as a continuous six-hour interval between 10 pm and 6 am.
Later the questions concerning the limitation of working hours of minors and juveniles were no longer discussed. Due to the recovery of the industry after 1910, the situation of children and juveniles had significantly improved. Increasing number of factories caused larger involvement of minors and juveniles in working process with an increase in wages and thus reduce unemployment among them. The working hours for minors in 1913 for 64,7% was more than 9 hours, for 27,9% was 9 hours and only 7,4% worked 8−8,5 hours [5, p. 40].
In the second half of XIX — early XX centuries the legislation related to child labor has got the most prominent changes for all time of its existence. It was a result of the labor movement and the revival of the industry. These changes affected primarily age limits, working hours limits and labor protection. At the same time it caused the improvement of working conditions, increase of wages and as a consequence the reduce of unemployment among minors.
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2. Gessen V. Yu. Istoriya zakonodatel'-stva o trude rabochey molodyezhi [The history of the labor legislation of working youth]. — L., 1927.
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5. Pazhitnov K.A. Polozhenie rabochego klassa v Rossii [The position of the proletariat in Russia]. — T. 2. — L., 1924−25.
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