Making a Living Living gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Living in 1901

Children's Work

In 1901, fewer children worked than at any time in the 19th century. This was a result of the establishment of elementary education and of other parliamentary measures preventing very young children working in mines and factories. But this does not mean that no children were in paid employment. Although the 1901 Census Report recorded that the regular employment of children under 10 years of age had practically been abolished, nearly 900,000 children aged 10 to 15 were at work.

All work and no play…
Children's work was not as varied as that undertaken by adults. Boys were most commonly employed as messengers or porters. The agricultural sector and the textile industry were their next most important employers. For girls, domestic service provided the most opportunities for employment, followed by textile and clothing manufacture or sales.

There was growing concern in government about child employment. An inter-departmental government report on the employment of schoolchildren, researched in 1901, found that 'the effects are injurious alike to education and health'. Its committee found that around 70% of children were working for 20 hours or less a week but that 9% were working for more than 30 hours a week. Committee members were also concerned about the conditions in which children were working: in one instance it was found that 'the hours are long, sanitary conditions are bad and the conversation is the worst conceivable for children'.

The government was also worried about wage rates. An investigation into child employment in 1898 found that the vast majority of children earned less than 2s per week. This was undoubtedly low remuneration. However, in an age when nearly a third of the population was living in chronic poverty and very many more were classed as poor, even such a small contribution could make a considerable difference to families.

Pit girls - link to an enlarged version

Working conditions for children - link to an enlarged version

Women's Work Children's Work Men's Work