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of a few years abroad, returns to his home country with added financial means, and what is perhaps of still greater importance, a far wider outlook upon life and business methods. Frequently, too, he is inspired with new ambition and hope, which makes him much more efficient than he could have been had he remained at home.
In a late investigation made by the Italian Government into conditions in southern Italy, the beneficial effect of the returning emigrant was exprest in the strongest terms. In effect, it was said that greater than the benefit of any laws that the Government could pass, better than any training which the Government could give the people, was the beneficial influence of the returning emigrant. Not merely did he bring new wealth into the country, but what was of still greater importance, he brought with him the American spirit of intelligent enterprise, which made him a much worthier and more helpful citizen.
Attitude of European Governments toward Emigration
Altho, with the exception of Russia-and here a new attitude undoubtedly will be taken by the new democracy—and Turkey, all European countries recognize the right of their citizens to emigrate, provided they have discharged their pending obligations to their own country, still the attitude of these governments toward emigration is determined very largely by the factors mentioned above. Even in Russia and Turkey their restrictive laws are largely obsolete, while in all the countries the economic influences are recognized as in the long run the determining factor.
The countries whose situation compels them to
maintain a large standing army are opposed to the emigration of able men in the prime of their productive and financial powers. They have had the expense of raising them through the unproductive period of childhood and fitting them to become selfsupporting wage-earners. If at the period when they are just beginning to be productive they emigrate, the expense of their rearing is an absolute loss.
Furthermore, they naturally regret the permanent emigration of their strongest and most enterprising wage-earners, for this means the curtailing of their manufacturing and commercial power.
On the other hand, so far as they believe that the emigrants are going to the United States to remain but a short period, and in the meantime to send back to the home country for investment all of their surplus earnings, and then later themselves return more skilful, more enterprising, more patriotic citizens of their own country, the foreign governments are willing to encourage their going. In fact, during the fiscal years 1908-1910 inclusive, about 40 per cent. of the emigrants from southern and eastern Europe returned to their home country after a short period of residence in the United States, and some 30 per cent. of all those coming to this country during that period returned home to make their permanent investments and remain.
Effect upon the United States of the Return to Europe of the Immigrant
It can hardly be said that taken by itself the sending back to the old country of the savings of the immigrant is directly an injury to the United States.
Speaking broadly, for every dollar sent more than a dollar's worth of productive labor has been expended here. The worker has fully earned his dollar. On the other hand, if that dollar, instead of being invested in his home country, were invested in the United States the benefit would be greater. America would have the productive influence not only of the labor but also of the capital made from the savings; and, furthermore, this country and not the home country would be deriving in the years to come the benefit of the added experience, improved skill and stimulated spirit of enterprise of the immigrant. In returning to Europe he raises, if he has been successful, the standard of living of that country. That makes his country a better market for us. While, therefore, we may not properly oppose the return of the immigrant, we may well offer inducements to change his mental attitude so that he will prefer to make his investments and his permanent residence here. Again, if the process of selection is practicable, we may well select those immigrants whose intention it is permanently to identify themselves with their adopted country, rather than those whose residence is but temporary.
But the question of the transfer of unskilled labor from Europe to America must be considered, not only from the point of view of the country of emigration, but likewise from that of immigration. Our papers frequently discuss the need of a cheap labor supply to build our railroads, dig our canals, till our fields and perform the manifold other kinds of work which call for unskilled labor. This demand for a large supply of unskilled labor had doubtless justification in the days when the first Pacific railroads were
building, and when the country was recovering from the shock of the Civil War and the consequent loss of a considerable percentage of its labor supply. But is the demand as insistent to-day?
How Far Does America Need a Cheap Labor Supply?
Before one can express any definite opinion on the subject, it is necessary to inquire, Who it is that is asserting the need of an increased supply of labor? and, still further, What constitutes a real demand for labor? The suggestion of a scant labor supply has come primarily from the employers of labor and those closely associated with them, especially perhaps from the great corporations and contractors who need thousands of unskilled laborers for work in mines or in large manufacturing plants, or in public improvements. At certain seasons of the year also the demand comes from farmers who wish to harvest their crops and who would be glad to pay a considerable extra wage for the sake of securing this temporary labor which can be used a week or a few weeks at will and then discharged without thought of its future.
What is the True Demand for Labor?
But what constitutes a real demand for labor? Is it a demand for more hands at lower than the prevailing rates, so that the manufacturer may reap a larger profit? That has seemed to be the judgment of some of those at any rate who have been attempting to import labor for work on farms, and perhaps also of certain large employers who, while not directly importing labor, have been willing to encourage the com
ing of many laborers with the thought that they could furnish these work, temporarily at least, at low wages.
But we can hardly speak of a proper demand for labor unless we mean a demand at wages certainly not less than the prevailing rates, with the conditions of labor not less favorable than those now obtaining. In very many instances the labor supply in any locality would be found to be elastic, provided the employer were willing to increase his wages but slightly or to improve the conditions under which his laborers work.
The attitude of the American wage-earner is different, not only from that of the employer, but from that of the immigrant as well. The employer wishes to secure efficient help at low cost. The more intelligent of the wage-earners naturally prefer a demand for labor, which means a demand at something more than existing rates, or under conditions better than those prevailing. The immigrant unfamiliar with American conditions, often not even understanding the language in which he must make his contract, and confronted with working methods which are new to him, while naturally preferring the best he can get, is often willing to work under conditions and at wages which would not appeal to American working men, but which to him seem satisfactory, even liberal, because they are so much better than any he has ever known before. Moreover, when the wage-earner is one unfamiliar, as are most immigrants, with American conditions, he is likely to be eager, perhaps too eager, to secure work at almost any wage above that affording a mere subsistence. Usually he is not in touch with the American working man or with trade-unions, and does not know what