Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States

Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States

Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States

Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States

Excerpt

At their inception, minimum wage policies in both Great Britain and the United States were intimately tied to other aspects of social welfare: pensions, housing, health care, and public assistance. In the United Kingdom, the same pre-World War I Liberal government that produced the Trade Boards Act 1909, Britain’s first minimum wage statute, also passed the Old Age Pensions Act 1908, the Labor Exchanges Act 1909, the Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, and the National Insurance Act 1911, which set up systems of unemployment and health insurance. In the United States, the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century sought to attack social ills on a variety of fronts, and it was this movement which produced the first state minimum wage statute, in Massachusetts in 1912. At the federal level, it was the New Deal coalition that finally managed to secure passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the national minimum wage law, after an initial experiment with minimum wage demands in 1933 as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act. Sandwiched between these efforts, it obtained congressional approval for the Social Security Act of 1935, which not only created systems of old age pensions and unemployment insurance but also contained what became the nation’s chief public assistance program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children. In both countries, policy planners envisaged a close connection among all these pieces of legislation, the com-

1 This act created minimum wages for only four industries. The level of the wage was to be set by a separate board for each, the details of which are discussed more fully in chapter 2.

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