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Working Conditions

Under this new system of production, employer-employee relationships were limited in the large factories of the Industrial Revolution. These factories employed many people - men, women and child. The workers worked generally the same hours as they did before. However, these workers were forced to work harder and with less rest.

The wages for their services were really low. Women and children worked for less than the men did. As a result, more women and children were preferred over men. The lower classes were kept in the low classes in order to supply an able workforce. There were always more people looking for jobs than there were jobs. People from rural areas were flooding into the cities.

This increase in population caused a series of problems. Housing was unable to keep up with the migration. Sanitation was horrible, trash filling the cities. Many homes did not have plumbing. Severe overcrowding can be found in every major city and outbreaks of diseases occurred.

The working conditions in the factories were horrible. The machines were unsafe. People sometimes got caught in the machine, losing limbs and lives. Children were used where room was narrow, such as chimney pipes and mine shafts. The factories had dim lighting and mines sometimes had none at all. Cave-ins took many lives. (Stick in a link to accounts of life here).

Workers began to form trade unions despite the fact that it was forbidden by the government. Many workers also went on strike or rioted. In the riots, unemployed workers destroyed machinery in an attempt to gain revenge against the employers they blamed for depriving them of jobs. Employed workers also took part and wrecked the machines. They were in protest against their low wages and terrible working conditions. In 1769, Parliament passed a law making the destruction of some kinds of machinery punishable by death. But workers continued to riot. In 1811, organized bands of employed and unemployed workers called Luddites began rioting against textile machines. They rioted from time to time for about two years.
The working and living conditions of the working class improved gradually during the 1800's. Parliament, which had largely represented only the upper class, began to act in the interests of the middle and working classes. It repealed the law forbidding trade unions and passed other laws regulating factory conditions. In 1832, a Reform Act gave most middle-class men the right to vote. Another Reform Act, passed in 1867, granted the right to vote to many city workers and owners of small farms.

[Daily Life of the People in the Industrial Revolution]

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