“Edward Cadbury was the first to advocate a living wage”: a reminder from a member of Bull Street meeting

edward cadburyThis information was given after an exchange about moves, in Quaker circles and outside, to offer a living wage. The writer, who knew nothing of Edward Cadbury, had to search online and learnt that he was the eldest son of George Cadbury and his first wife Mary. He grew up in the house which is now Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre.

He joined the family business in 1893, becoming a managing director in 1899 and chairman in 1937, retiring in 1943. He was one of the founders of Selly Oak Colleges, which merged into the University of Birmingham.

Edward Cadbury’s research interests are listed as “economics, management and organisations … including workers’ welfare and women’s employment rights.” A summary of his remarkable life may be seen here and below is an edited extract from one of his books, offered by journal storage programme JSTOR, a valued American resource which ‘serves the needs of the publishing, library, and scholarly communities’:

cadbury lw all
Duncan Brown head of consulting at the Institute for Employment Studies sets the scene:

Today about five million people in this country, the majority women, will have woken up, (many before you or I), travelled to work, served us, cleaned for us, looked after our elderly and sick relatives and friends, and performed other valuable activities, and then gone home again. And at the end of the month they will get their pay cheque, like you are I. But they won’t have earned enough to live on – not enough to feed and clothe their kids, provide power for their homes, and the other necessities of life. Only in-work benefits to the tune of £4 billion a year keep their heads above water. More than half of the children living in poverty in this country have one or more working parents.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who chaired a new Living Wage Commission, asked in 2013:

“Why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up?

“Why is government subsidising businesses which don’t pay their employees enough to live on?”

Victorian entrepreneur Robert Owen recognised at his New Lanark cotton mill, that “philanthropy” in the form of decent wages and housing, workplace benefits and education facilities “go hand in hand with economic advantage”.

As Edward Cadbury summarised, “worker welfare and profitability are different sides of the same coin”.

Next post: Paul Ingram and the British-American Security Council


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