WOMEN AND FAMILY ALLOWANCES Catholic Doctrine
" No supplies without redress " is one of the oldest maxims of the constitution. According to Mr. Attlee the government in refusing to admit as final the vote of the House in favour of the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work to the women of the civil service has flouted that principle. And it is certainly. true that the administration has had to wriggle out of its awkward position by forcing its supporters to back it up on a vote of confidence which chiefly turned on the government's policy as a whole and its foreign policy at a difficult time when union is essential in particular.
The intricacies of parliamentary procedure, however, are of less ultimate importance than the question at issue.
What is the position in the civil service? In many grades the maximum for women is the minimum for their male colleagues. For example, a recently promoted high executive officer (woman) found on taking up her new duties that she had working under her a male higher clerical officer receiving £400 (maximum) and an execu tive officer (male) receiving £375. She herself was being paid £300.
The principle of equal pay for equal work has been laid down in part mit of the Treaty of Versailles, which states: " The following methods and principles for regulating labour conditions seem to the high contracting parties to be of special and urgent importance. . . . The principle that men and women receive equal remuneration for work of equal value."
The House of Commons on May 19, 1920, affirmed its belief in the equity of equal pay in the civil service, the resolution then passed declaring " that it is expedient that women should . . . receive equal pay."
The Family Wage
In the discussion in the House the most useful contribution was made by Sir Austen Chamberlain, who said that there was only one rightful solution to the problem and that was to fix a new standard and supplement it by family allowances to those who had extra responsibilities. He warned the House that the effect of this would in fact be a mere redistribution of the present rates.
From the Catholic point of view the abstract principle of equal pay for equal work is evidently natural and just, while the Church has long supported the family wage system.
For a Catholic, however, the family wage as suggested above by Sir Austen Chamberlain would not suffice. Not only have allowances for family and children to be given, but the single man must be paid enough to make it possible for him to save and marry. Since a man 'And woman can only have one family between them this latter proviso cannot in the ideal apply equally to both sexes.
It follows that Sir Austen's proposal to institute family allowances without any increase in the amount of wages paid would be insufficient to meet the demands of ethics, but the distribution of wages on the basis of family needs would be intrinsically better than a flat rate of payment