21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 31



SIR,—Your interesting article in last week's issue on the cotton dispute contains a suggestion of much practical value in regard to the general problem of unemployment : "The trade would become collectively responsible for its own unemployment." That seems to me to be the ideal and the only practical way of dealing with the problem. This solution is one which has always appealed to me more than the municipal or State solutions, because, among other reasons, a scheme of insurance against unemployment, contributed to by employers and employed in any industry, would have the following effects :—(a) The tie of sentiment in the industrial relationship would be strengthened (if the State or municipality assumed responsibility the exact reverse would ensue) ; (b) steadying influence would be exerted on business enterprise, discouraging that reckless employment of labour in the feverish desire to capture an undue share of trade which frequently results in disaster ; (c) the tendency on the part of some Labour organisations to limit the capacity and restrict the range of individual workmen would be counteracted. The fact is that even in the present depressed state of trade many businesses which have been conducted with caution and discretion are able to show comparatively low percentages of unemployment, while other concerns—sometimes in exactly the same line of business—conducted on speculative or over- sanguine lines show exceedingly high percentages of unem- ployment. A scheme such as you indicated in your article would tend to make such speculation expensive, and would act as a much-needed safeguard in the interests of the sound trader, securing him to some extent against the reckless and unfair competition of his more speculative competitor. In order that such a system should be generally adopted, it would probably be necessary to make it compulsory, but I know of one or two companies where a voluntary scheme of this character has been under consideration for some time. The difficulty that arises is that no insurance company has yet taken the matter up and devised a scheme of mutual insurance. It ought to be no more difficult to insure against liability for unemployment than it is to insure against accidents.

I am doubtful about such a scheme being worked, as you suggest, through the Trade-Unions. I think it is quite possible that the Trade-Unions would not be altogether sympathetic towards such a scheme, which, if it is to be successful, must provide for the worker greater benefits than those now given by such societies. In other words, it must outbid in popularity the Trade-Unions, which concern themselves with other questions than unemployment, and which require their funds mainly for other purposes. One of the merits of an unem- ployment insurance scheme would be that, in order to prevent a worker becoming a charge on the funds, greater effort would be made to find some other kind of employment in connexion with the industry if the section to which he was usually attached were depressed. But the final and decisive recom- mendation is that a scheme of this kind is demanded in the interests of social and industrial progress.—I am, Sir, &e.,

Finclifield House, Wolverhampton.