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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Labour Supply And Regulation

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During the World War the question of national " man-power " came to the front as never before. In a war engaging the whole resources of a nation its man-power must be distributed to meet four paramount obligations: (1) The maintenance at requisite strength of the fighting forces; (2) the supply to the forces of the necessary men for carrying on war; (3) the supply of the necessities of life for the civilian population, and (4) the maintenance of ordinary commercial work to the fullest possible extent in order to maintain financial credit. It is the business of Government to see that as far as possible the appropriate categories of men are drafted into each class. If there is a shortage of the gross supply it becomes a duty not merely to attempt to increase the total from new sources, but to regulate the existing supply in such a way as to increase its productivity.

The problem of " man-power " in war-time is obviously different from the outset in countries which begin a war with universal compulsory service and those which begin a war on the basis of voluntaryism. In the case of countries such as France and Germany, the approximate size of the fighting forces was known in advance, and this fact, combined with universal compulsory service, at any rate canalized the problem. In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, where the fighting forces were expanded sevenfold, and where there was no compulsion at the outset and never universal compulsion, the problem was of a completely different order.

I. UNITED KINGDOM The history of labour supply and regulation in the United Kingdom during the World War is the history of how a system had to be improvised to meet the ever-shifting demands of the four predominant national needs. The problem for those concerned with the handling of labour throughout was to attempt, with an inadequate supply, to meet each of the four demands to the widest possible extent.

The first necessity in point of time was the recruitment of fighting forces on a scale hitherto unimagined. No attempt was made to limit the area of recruitment, nor would it have been possible in the early days to impose any such check. If limits had been imposed upon the patriotic enthusiasm which brought millions to the colours, serious obstacles would have been put in the way of building up the immense armies that were ultimately achieved; but the very impetus of recruitment of itself created in an acute degree the shortage of man-power, and accentuated it by reason of the fact that men were drawn largely from the very trades upon which the fighting forces depended for munitions.

To a certain extent the account of labour regulation and supply is an account of the long and difficult attempt to repair the ravages in the industrial ranks created by indiscriminate recruiting. The account of the handling of the problem may be approached from three points of view - the first negative, and the latter two positive: (A) - The negative, which consisted in the limitation of recruitment.

(B) - The stage of increase of labour supply, (t) by drawing on to vital work workers engaged on less vital work, (2) by bringing back from the forces skilled men to assist in the production of munitions, (3) by getting workers from new sources.

(C) - The intensive use of the available supplies of labour by its regulation, (I) by increasing mobility, (2) by preventing wastage, (3) by removal of trade-union restrictions, including ultimately dilution, (4) by obtaining full value for hours worked (under which is included the prevention of strikes and lockouts, the regulation of hours of employment, the provision of workshop discipline, and the provision of satisfactory working conditions), (5) by the handling of wages problems.

(A) THE Limitation Of Recruitment. - S0 far were the Government and the country from realizing the probability that excessive recruitment might lead to grave shortage of manpower, with the result that instead of widespread unemployment there would be practically no unemployment whatever of ablebodied persons, that the first steps in the handling of the labour problem by the Government and by the engineering trades respectively were as follows: - (a) The Government set up in the early days of Aug. 1914 a strong Cabinet committee for the prevention and relief of distress. (b ) On Aug. 19 the executives of the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers met to discuss ways and means whereby the unemployment contingent on the national crisis might be minimized. (c ) The attitude of the general business community was crystallized in the phrase " business as usual." This early point of view was rapidly modified. As early as the end of Sept. 1914 it began to appear that the rate of unemployment was far from high; and from Oct. onwards, to the shell conference of Dec. 21, the outstanding feature of the labour situation which began to emerge was the grave shortage of skilled engineering labour, threatening to make impossible the vitally needed expansion of production. Nor, when the figures of recruitment are examined, is this result surprising. By Oct. 1914 the group in the engineering trades had lost by enlistment 12.2% of their pre-war male workers. This percentage had risen by July 1915 to 19.5. 1 Against this loss must be offset the large proportion of new entrants into these trades, but these entrants never filled the gap thus created and would have been inadequate 1 Board of Trade report on the state of employment in the United Kingdom in July 1915, Part I, page 3.

if the demand on this group had remained at the pre-war standard, whereas in effect it was increased out of knowledge.

The situation accordingly was grave. The shortage of munitions was causing acute apprehension, and early in 1915 it had attracted general public attention. The first step, therefore, taken to deal with the matter was to provide some form of protection from recruiting for men engaged on munitions production. As early as Sept. 8 1914 Messrs. Vickers had suggested the possibility of the issue of a badge which should protect men from the recruiting officer on the one hand, and from irresponsible persecution on the ground of shirking on the other; but throughout 1914 nothing on a systematic or even considerable basis had been attempted in this direction.

In Jan. and Feb., however, the matter was seriously taken in hand by the War Office, and a special branch was set up Batlgittg: to deal with the " badging" of indispensable work men engaged on munitions. A scheme was brought into operation in March 1915, under which contractors were classified according to the importance and urgency of their work. Similar action was taken by the Admiralty, and in May of that year instructions were issued to recruiting officers that men in certain categories were not to be accepted for enlistment, but this action was in itself almost nugatory. The patriotic impulse to join up among the younger men was still too strong to admit of artificial restriction, but the lists were not really drawn up on any scientific basis. In fact, they were directed rather

to protect the manufacturers of the finished product, i.e. shells, guns and ships, while making no real endeavour to cover the sources of supply, e.g. machine tools. The action taken by the Admiralty was probably more effective than that taken by the War Office.

The original war service badges issued by the War Office were accompanied by a certificate signed by Lord Kitchener.

" In token that his services are urgently required in the manufacture of ordnance war material for the defence of the realm, in which service he is required to exercise diligence and faithfulness." By the end of July 1915, 79,73 8 badges had been issued, over 60%, however, to a very limited number of firms.

At this stage (Aug. 1915) the Ministry of Munitions comes upon the scene. It was clear that one of the first duties of that department would be to organize labour supply. This meant, as a first step, the protection of workers engaged on the output of munitions from further recruitment. Speaking generally, when the Ministry of Munitions took over the work, one-fifth of the males employed in the industry specially concerned with recruiting had joined the forces. As a first step, to regulate the position and to take powers, a provision was introduced into the Munitions of War Act, in July 1915, enabling the Minister of Munitions to make rules authorizing the wearing of badges by persons engaged on munitions work or other work for war purposes.' Provisional rules under this section were made on July 23, and became statutory on Cct. 9.2 Before this date, however, namely on July 26, the Ministry of Munitions took over the administration of the badges from both the Admiralty and the War Office. Letters were immediately sent to the firms on the War Office and Admiralty lists of exemption, informing them that the basis of protection would be badges. At the same time letters were issued to firms on lists prepared by the supply departments of the Ministry of Munitions, in particular to firms such as machine-tool makers, iron and steel firms, principal electrical power stations, gas works extracting toluol, and chemical firms which had not been previously protected.

In order to keep this list up to date and to extend it where necessary, the Ministry of Munitions kept in constant touch with all the supply departments concerned and with employers of labour throughout the country; but from the first, and throughout, there was an almost inevitable conflict of interest between the points of view of the Ministry of Munitions as the department protecting labour for munitions work, and the fighting departments who were in urgent need of recruits.

1 Munitions of War Act, 1915. Section 8.

2 Statutory Rules and Orders, 1915. No. Io01.

The scheme was by no means a complete success. In the first place, there was the conflict of interest already mentioned. In the second place, it was difficult to obtain a scientific list of the firms to be covered, particularly when, as was the case, the types of munitions urgently required varied almost from week to week. In the third place, it was a matter of difficulty to decide to what class of men within protected industries or firms badges should be issued. Finally, at this stage the actual distribution of the badges was not in the hands of the department, but of necessity in the hands of the employer who alone knew the requirements.

Concurrently with the work of the issue of badges a new method upon which industry could be more scientifically protected was being provided by the National Registra tion Act of 1915. The registration undertaken on National Aug. 1 1915 had among its objects that of discovering Re,istra- o

5 g objects t what proportion of men of military age were still eligible for service and what proportion of those were employed on work vital to the output of munitions. When the results were supplied special arrangements were made for writing the account of men in industries vital to the continuance of the war upon starred forms, and when at the end of Oct. the figures were reported by the Registrar-General and the Scottish Office it appeared that 29.4% of the whole available labour was in " starred " industries. Of that more than 50% was on munitions production, the remainder being on railways, mining and agriculture.

It was becoming apparent while these two steps were being taken to protect industry that the existing method of obtaining recruits for the fighting forces was not merely producing an inadequate supply, but was, by its indiscriminate nature, severely handicapping the output of munitions. Accordingly, in Sept. 1915, the question of an immediate adoption of compulsory military service was seriously weighed, but on the balance of considerations it was decided to make a last appeal on a voluntary basis - the Derby scheme. The essential aspect of the Derby scheme, from the point of view of limitation of recruitment, was the establishment of the local tribunal for giving exemption, which formed the basis of the tribunals which functioned under the Military Service Acts when they came into force. The question arose whether all men should be submitted to these tribunals, or whether those protected by the Ministry of Munitions and the starred lists should be automatically exempted. After discussion the question was settled by the issue, on Nov. 16 1915, of the following notice on the enlistment of munitions workers, signed by Mr. Lloyd George and Lord Derby: No man officially badged or starred for munitions work may be enlisted for immediate service in the Army. Men so badged or starred may be " attested " for the Reserve on condition of returning to civil employment. They will receive the khaki armlet, and will not be called tip for service unless at some future time the Ministry of Munitions decides that they are more urgently needed in the Army than for munitions work.

Provision at the same time was made for the release from the colours of starred and badged men wrongly enlisted.

On Nov. 19 the Local Government Board issued the first instructions to the local tribunals, and in a public announcement the list of starred occupations subsequently reserved was set out as follows: List A. - Occupations required for the production or transport of munitions supplied by the Ministry of Munitions.

List B. - Coal-mining.

List C. - Agricultural, railway, and certain occupations in mining, etc.

List D. - Occupations (reserved occupations) of cardinal importance for the maintenance of some other branches of trade and industry.

Supplements to List D. were issued on Nov. 29 and Dec. 20 1915.

By this means, for the first time after the outbreak of war, something like a basis of a scientific protection for workers required for the output of munitions, and the main tenance of civilian necessities, was laid down. military Service The Derby scheme did not produce the necessary Act. number of recruits. The facts were, as Lord Derby's report, made public on Dec. 19 1915, stated, that 1,029,231 unmarried men had not offered themselves for service, of whom 651,160 were not starred. This figure of itself sounded the knell of voluntaryism, and on Jan. 51916 Mr. Asquith introduced the first Military Service bill. From the point of view of limitation of recruitment the important provisions of that Act are contained in Section 2, which empowered a Government department to grant certificates of exemption to men on work of national importance in consultation with the Army Council. It provided further that a Government department might direct that certificates of this nature previously granted should be regarded as certificates within the meaning of the Act.

In the course of the discussion on the bill grave fears were expressed by the Labour party lest the powers of the Act, and particularly those as to exemption, should be used for the purpose of industrial compulsion. It was pointed out by Mr.

W. C. Anderson on the second reading 1 that an employer would have power of life and death over his employee, and safeguards were accordingly introduced into the bill so that an employer should not, by merely dismissing a man, compel him to take military service. The Military Service Act became law on Jan. 27 1916. It was laid down that numbered badges issued by the Admiralty, War Office or Ministry of Munitions should be treated as certificates of exemption for the purpose of the Act.

Steps were further taken to exchange for numbered certificates the unnumbered Admiralty badges. The actual exchange was obviously a matter of considerable difficulty.

It is certain that for many reasons the exchange was never complete or satisfactory, but it is probable that no system could have been devised to render it so.

It was expected that the operation of the first Military Service Act would remedy the admittedly grave shortage in the inflow of recruits for the services. These hopes were not realized. Many causes operated to defeat them, but one to which increasing attention was drawn was the system of exemptions. The position was now reversed. At the outset of munitions shortage the forces were accused of starving the factories, now the factories were accused of starving the forces, the truth being that there were never enough men for both needs, and that each was supplied at the expense of the other according to the predominant military need of the moment.

However this may be, from the passing of the first Military Service Act the problem of limitation of recruitment became rather one of finding men for the forces than of preventing their enlistment, but with this vital qualification that they were to be found with the least possible loss to munitions production.

From this point begins the active policy of debadging, which was in effect the negative side of " dilution." Public feeling against men " under the umbrella " was growing, Debadg- and so well-informed a critic as Lord Derby could say on May 18, 2 in the debate in the House of Lords on the second Military Service bill, which extended compulsory service to married men who had not attested: " That is the question of men in munition works who are eligible for military service, and who are, in the opinion of the various localities in which they are working, only shirking by being in those works. That has given rise to more trouble with regard to recruiting than anything else. You have grocers, pawnbrokers' assistants, all classes of men going into munition works and securing exemptions; and it is the fact of their so securing exemption, although not skilled, that gives rise to so much irritation.. .

" Arrangements are being made by means of a committee to debadge these men and secure them for military service. But I should be deceiving your Lordships if I did not tell you that these methods of debadging are excessively slow; and if we are to wait for. that system to work itself out, coupled with two months' exemption, we shall not get the men as rapidly as is desired." His reference to the Debadging Committee indicates a step which had already been taken in the hope of controlling the issue of badges. This committee, with Mr. Walter Long, M.P., as chairman, held its first meeting on March 20. But although it was a Cabinet committee of an authoritative kind it was able to accomplish little. The difficulty was one which was common to this and to practically all other subsequent coordinating 1 Parliamentary Debates (1916) H. of C., Lxxvi I. 1416 et seq. 2 Parliamentary Debates (1916) H. of L., XXI. 1099.

committees set up to deal with the problem of the labour supply. The questions to be determined depended on two sets of considerations - (a) the general strategic policy of the Government, and (b ) the practical facts of industry and production.

No committee could ever replace the actual departments concerned with the supply of munitions from the second point of view, nor the War Council or Cabinet from the first. This particular committee, possessing neither the power to decide policy nor the knowledge to settle badging questions in detail (which in the second week of May were coming in at the rate of 12,195 per week), was doomed to failure, and, after some months of struggling with an impossible task, made way for the ManPower Distribution Board on Sept. 3.

But while the committee was sitting the departments were not idle. The extent to which protection from enlistment had now proceeded may be judged from a consideration of the results of two returns obtained from badged firms to the number of 12,000, May and Dec. 1916. These returns showed that, of a total number of 2,112,896 males employed, a total of 1,118,767 were of military age. Of these 698,587 were skilled, leaving a very considerable balance of semi-skilled and unskilled whose retention was naturally challenged. A return covering a wider area indicated that the total number of men protected either by badges, exemptions or recruiting officers' certificates, was 2,686,400. A change in the basis of badging was introduced in May 1916. Up to that date the employer had been responsible for the issue of the badges. From that date the direct responsibility for their issue was assumed by the Ministry of Munitions. This shifting of responsibility, while casting a great additional burden on the department, put them in a position to deal with the whole question more comprehensively and with greater certainty. It enabled them, for example, to attack with increased vigour the problem of debadging. Debadging was necessarily carried on in close association with and by the same officers responsible for dilution. The principles upon which these officers worked were to deal with all cases of badged men who were not occupied three-quarters of their time on important work, or whose work could be done by female or other labour ineligible for military service, and for whom substitutes could be found. If the men were skilled they should be drafted to other civilian work of national importance; if unskilled, to the forces. The task set these officers was one of great difficulty, 3 but by Aug. 1916 32,798 badges had been withdrawn, 9,475 firms, covering 850,268 badges, having been visited.

But even so the position was far from satisfactory. The first battle of the Somme had made severe inroads on the man-power of the nation, and the situation in this respect was perhaps as critical at the date of the establishment of the Man-Power Board as at any time during the war.

This board were set up with at least a partial understanding of the difficulties which had been encountered by the committee on exemptions, the place of which they took.

Their functions included the settlement of questions arising between Government departments on the use of man-power, and the giving of directions to the departments. Moreover, programmes involving important demands for manpower were to be submitted to the board; the authority of which, subject to the War Committee, was final.

The board were only more successful than their predecessors in that, by their recommendations, they brought the rapidly growing difficulty to a crisis. They found themselves confronted by the two same root difficulties. They could not regulate the programmes either of the forces or the departments, as they did not control policy, and they were bound, on the practical question of the number and quality of men required to carry out the programmes, to rely on the executive departments.

But in spite of these difficulties the Man-Power Board were able to make new recommendations of first-class importance. One was that no badge certificates should be issued to men (a) who had already been decertified by a Government department; 3 For fuller account of " dilution," see below.

(b ) whose cases were pending before tribunals; (c ) to whom tribunals had refused exemption; (d ) to whom tribunals had given temporary exemptions, and (e ) already under notice to join the army. A second was that the Ministry of Munitions should be allowed to claim the services of men in the above classes, who would then, unless immediately required for service in an equally skilled capacity in the army, be transferred to reserve as the "army reserve munitions workers." Two results emerged from these recommendations when they were adopted, neither of which could have been expected by those who made them. The first was the growth of considerable resentment amongst the skilled trade unions, who complained that the new arrangement was contrary to the pledge given by the Prime Minister that skilled men should not be taken for general service. This feeling was so strong that in the end it led to a complete revision of the basis of exemption by what came to be known as the trade-card agreement. In the second place the Man-Power Board saw that they could not hope really to deal with their main problem of adjudicating between departments, unless they had effective local machinery. Though the machinery they planned was never put into force, they had indicated two things. First, the vital need of the whole question of manpower both from the recruiting and the civilian points of view being under one authority. Second, the necessity that that authority should be independent of all the departments interested. In this way they sowed the seeds of the Ministry of National Service, and it cannot therefore be said, even if at the time the upshot seemed disappointing, that in the long run it was unfruitful.

The new policy of exemptions caused grave difficulties with the trade unions. Their complaints were: - (a) that recruiting officers ignored the validity of badge certificates; ent. i ndeed that badged and certificated trade unionists had actually been arrested as defaulters; ( b ) that there were skilled men unbadged in railway shops; (c ) that skilled men in commercial work were being taken, greatly to the detriment of the country's credit system; and (d ) that skilled men with the colours were still being used for general service instead of skilled work. At the same time as these complaints were growing, grew the demand for men with the colours. To meet the demand, various proposals were mooted, but their shape was ultimately determined by the crisis precipitated by the wide-spread feeling of uneasiness among the men. There were three proposals before the Government. There was first the proposal of the Man-Power Board, which, subject to elaborate safeguards, suggested the immediate decertification and debadging of all men of military age under 26. There was the proposal of the Ministry of Munitions to leave all skilled men alone, but, with certain special exemptions for steel and similar work, to release all both semi-skilled and unskilled men as far as possible. There was finally the proposal of the skilled trade unions to the effect that no skilled men should be taken for the colours, that they should be protected from military service by a card issued to them by their societies and that skilled men with the colours should be used in mechanical units.

While these three proposals were being debated, the storm broke early in November. A strike at Sheffield centred round the recruiting of a man named Hargreaves, and in order to allay the general uneasiness, of which this strike was a symptom, on Nov. 18 the Trade-Card Agreement was signed at a meeting with the Executive of the A.S.E.: 1. That all members of 1 the Amalgamated Society of Engineers as one of the Trade Unions of the skilled engineering trades not now fully engaged, or at any time hereafter ceasing to be fully engaged, on war work, shall enrol as war munitions volunteers, and thus place their services at the disposal of the country, in accordance with arrangements under the war munitions volunteers scheme.

2. The skilled men referred to in this agreement are men who were either journeymen or apprentices prior to Aug. 15 1915.

3. All skilled men on war work or who have enrolled as war munitions volunteers shall be provided with a card of exemption from military service. The form of this card will be authorised by 1 The words " the Amalgamated Society of Engineers as one of the " were added at the conclusion of the conference with the Government on Nov. 18.

the Army Council and the card will be issued through the trade unions. Orders will be issued by the Army Council to all recruiting officers that no man who produces such a card to the local recruiting officer shall be removed from his work without a specific authority from the War Office, which will not be given without reference to the Minister of Munitions and the executive of the man's union. In case of any dispute arising as to a man's right to hold a card, it shall be decided by a representative of the War Office, a representative of the Ministry of Munitions, and a representative appointed by the executive of the union to which the man belongs.

4. The provision of skilled mechanics for the army will in future be made by the Ministry of Munitions. The trade unions will do their utmost to provide the Ministry of Munitions with skilled men, who will undertake to serve at the choice of the Ministry either in the artificers' corps in the army or as war munitions volunteers in civil life. If skilled men for the army are not secured in this way, it is clearly understood that recourse must again be had to the statutory powers.

5. That the Amalgamated Society of Engineers will furnish names and, wherever possible, particulars of skilled men, now serving in non-mechanical corps, and the Army Council will continue to make every effort to transfer mechanical units.

The scheme was subsequently extended to the remainder of the unions in the engineering and shipbuilding group.

This agreement did nothing directly to increase the supply of men for the army, except in the condition which required skilled men to enrol themselves as war munitions volunteers and thus render themselves mobile. It remained accordingly for the Government to decide how to draw from the ranks of the skilled and the semi-skilled the necessary recruits. This problem was still unsolved when in the middle of Dec. 1916 the first Lloyd George Government was formed.

The first step taken by the new Government in this matter was to form a Ministry of National Service. By doing this the Government recognised that the coordination of manpower could only be effected by an executive body, First and that no committee, however powerful and strongly M a i tio y tr of constituted, could hope to deal with a problem which was in the last resort inevitably one of detail. Thus one of the lessons of the Man-Power Board was learned, but the second and more vital was at this stage overlooked. The Ministry of National Service under its original constitution dealt only with civilian labour: it did not touch recruiting. This was a fatal flaw, for by the omission of this function not only did the department fail to balance the rival demands of the forces and home production, but it became a fifth wheel which, side by side with the organization of the Ministry of Munitions and the Admiralty, necessarily tended to revolve in the air, or if on the ground, then only to get in the way of the four effective wheels. As the result, till this defect was remedied by the reconstitution of this Ministry in Aug. 1917, the department was practically powerless.

But the needs of the forces and of production were incessant and remorseless. Consequently, until the reconstituted ministry was set up, the burden, as in the time of the Badge Committee and the Man-Power Board, continued to fall on the executive departments. These departments found that the Trade-Card Agreement had not alleviated their difficulties. Not only did the intake of recruits continue to be much below requirements, but the Agreement itself had led to new embarrassments of its own creation. On the one hand, so far as labour was concerned, it created almost as much unrest as it allayed. For its operation had been restricted to a selected list of unions, with the result that all those excluded resented their exclusion. On the other hand, from the Government point of view, a system which practically handed the exemption of skilled men to the trade unions was bound to work unsatisfactorily.

In the beginning of 1917 accordingly the Government decided that the needs of the forces rendered imperative the abolition of the Trade-Card scheme. Its place was taken by the schedule of protected occupations. Under this schedule men engaged in the specified occupations on Admiralty, War Office or munitions work or in railway workshops were entitled to a " scheduled occupations certificate if over a specified age or in a medical category below A." Men put in scheduled occupations received a " protection certificate " of a more limited and precarious character.

Protected Occupa- tions. It was obvious that this change would not be effected without the most strenuous opposition from the trade unions. It might have gone through, however, without actual industrial disturbance if it had not coincided in point of time with an amending Munitions Bill, which among other provisions rendered possible the compulsory introduction of dilution on private work. The combination of these new factors led in May 1 9 17 to the outbreak of perhaps the most serious strike which the Government had to face during the World War. In the result the Government adhered to their schedule, but it was announced that progress with that part of the bill which provided for dilution on private work would be deferred. It did not, in fact, reappear.

Reference must here be made to the work of the Reserved Occupations Committee, which, dealing with non-munitions trades, had functioned continuously since Sept. 1915, side by side with the Ministry of Munitions and the Admiralty, and was finally absorbed in the Ministry of National Service in Aug. 1917. As the recruiting campaign was intensified during the end of 1915, and particularly when the tribunal system came into operation with the Derby scheme, it became obvious that a real necessity existed for the creation of some central body which could give advice to tribunals in respect of trades not covered by the Ministry of Munitions and the Admiralty. This committee, originally appointed in Sept. 1915, and composed entirely of experts, framed successive lists of occupations in which, in their view, men should be protected from recruiting. The lists had regard to the necessity of maintaining national trade and food supply. At no stage did the issue of these lists entitle persons covered by them to automatic exemption as was the case with badged men. The only effect of the list was to set clearly before the tribunals, before which the men concerned would appear, the view that recruiting in the " certified " lists should not be encouraged. The " certified " lists originally included " badged " occupations, but these were gradually eliminated as time went on, it being made clear that in the case of these trades men must rely on their badges and not on the list. The general tendency of these lists was, after the first general scheme had been settled, to reduce the area of exemption. This reduction was carried out in three ways: (1) By removal of industries from the list; (2) by removal of occupations; (3) by fixing, and from time to time raising, the age limit below which protection should not be afforded. The age limit was taken in conjunction with the question whether a man was married or single in some of the earlier lists and in the final list with his medical category.

Even the institution of the schedule of protected occupations, and the progressive reduction of the area covered by the lists issued by the Reserved Occupations Committee, did not meet the needs of the situation. By the middle of 1917 it became evident that an effort on the widest possible scale must be put forward to rally the man-power of the nation for the campaign of 1918. The Government set themselves to attempt to remove the difficulties which had been indicated by the successive failures of the Man-Power Board and the first National Service Ministry by setting up a reconstituted Ministry, which (a) was responsible both for recruiting and for allocation of civilian labour, and (b) had an effective labour priority committee which weighed the claims of the various classes of production, under the general direction of (c) the War Priority Committee, a Cabinet committee presided over by Gen. Smuts, which had power to give general instructions as to the parts of the programme to which special attention should be directed.

The new Ministry of National Service came into effective operation at the end of Aug. 1917. It was presented with a very formidable task. The Russian collapse and the likelihood that the campaign of 1918 might be decisive, together with the heavy wastage in the forces during 1917, rendered it vital that there should be a large addition to the forces. On the other hand the manpower resources at home were subjected to the greatest strain, (a) to meet the ever-growing and varying munitions programme, (b ) to meet the urgent claims of food production rendered daily more vital by the increasing menace of the submarine campaign, and (c) to maintain normal private industry at the highest point possible in the interest of the nation's credit.

There can be no question that the associating under one minister of recruiting and the supply of civilian man-power profoundly affected and improved the situation. The mere transfer of military recruiting to a civilian organization in itself tended to inspire confidence in the ranks of labour, a confidence which was increased by reason of the fact that the same civilian authority was generally responsible for the supply of labour for all other national purposes. But this confidence in itself did not supply the necessary recruits. It became necessary as 1917 progressed to make new and drastic proposals to meet the demands of the armies. But while these proposals were maturing, steps were taken to provide a new pool of substitutes for men released for military service. The men in the army at home unfit for general service were catalogued in a card index showing their civil trades and the employers for whom they worked before enlistment. These men were available not only for munitions work, but for work of national importance. The needs of the land were met by the provision of part-time labour, by German prisoner labour, by the enrolment under the Board of Agriculture of the Women's Land Army, and by the temporary release for harvest operations of units of the Home Army.

But all these measures of themselves could not solve the central problem of recruiting which was more and more becoming one of a scientific removal of exemptions at a far increased speed. It was becoming obvious all through the autumn of 1917 that it was necessary to get rid of exemptions held on occupational grounds, thus avoiding the long and tedious process of applying to the tribunals for the withdrawal of individual certificates of exemptions. This policy, currently known as the policy of the " clean cut," naturally was regarded with disfavour by labour. But after a long series of conferences it was finally embodied in the Military Service Act of Feb. 1918. This Act was supplemented by a second, passed in April 1918 immediately after the beginning of the German offensive of that year, raising the age limit to 51 and giving powers to cancel certificates of exemption on personal grounds.

9 18


Increase over





Wheat .




Barley. .. .




Oats. .. .

3 1,196,000










Under these two Acts, two Withdrawal Orders - one in April and the other in June - were carried cancelling exemptions in a large number of trades and occupations, including most of those named in the list of certified occupations, though the withdrawals in that case were generally confined to men in medical Grade I. The result of these measures may be summed up in the statement that, from the inception of the reconstituted Ministry to the Armistice, 70,000 men were posted to the colours. At the same time so far as food production is concerned the position may be summarized in the following table 1: Finally the trade of the country had been maintained so that it emerged from the war second only to the United States in point of its financial credit.

(B) THE Increase Of Labour Supply. - In order to estimate the problem to be faced in reenforcing the ranks of labour depleted by recruitment, it is necessary to set out what was the estimated employed population at July 1914, what was the total enlistment for the forces until July 1918, and what numbers, apart from any extraneous action, would in the ordinary course of nature have flowed in to fill the gap thus created.

There is no absolute statistical basis for the period in question, but a trustworthy estimate can be framed by an examination of the Z8 returns obtained by the Board of Trade, checked by the 1 War Cabinet Report for 1918 (Cmd. 325).

census of population of 1911, and by considering the Board of Trade " Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad" (No. 28 - 05 - I Feb. 1917).

The Z8 return (supplied by employers to the Board of Trade) indicates that the employed male population in the occupations covered by the Z8 return, was at July 1914, 10,61o,000. of The total occupied male population shown in the census of approximately 4,060,000.




Agriculture in Ireland. .. .. .


Mercantile marine... .


Clergymen, physicians, literary and other

professional occupations.. .


Sundry minor commercial occupations


Costermongers, hawkers, and sundry dealers.


Domestic service (outdoor and indoor) .


Gardeners (except market gardeners) covered

under agriculture in Great Britai


Other occupations.. .


Total. .. ... .



bons. population was a roximatel The Board of Trade estimates that, allowing for the normal increase of population, and for emigration, this last number would have increased by July 1914 to 14,3J0,- coo, leaving a balance of 3,750,000 occupied persons not included in Z8 occupations. It is further estimated that of these, 2,150,000 were engaged as follows: - An examination of these categories will indicate that enlistment (except in the case of domestic service) would probably be inconsiderable, and it may fairly be estimated at not more than half that in the occupations covered by Z8. The total enlistment for the ro,6ro,000 covered by that return is 4,896,000. If half the proportion enlisted in these occupations is accepted in respect of the 2,150,000 males occupied in the miscellaneous occupations not covered by Z8, a total of about 450,000 is reached, giving a grand total of 5,346,000.

There remains the further 1,600,000 males necessary to complete the estimated total of 14,350,000 at July 1914. The majority of these would be employers and persons working on their own account, the one-man businesses from which in the nature of the case the proportion of enlistment would be comparatively small, and if 250,000 is added for this class this probably does not err in the low side. A grand total therefore of 5,596,000.

There are, however, still to be taken into account the unoccupied males, of whom there were approximately 200,000 in July 1914, and a considerable number of boys at school in 1914 who enlisted without entering an occupation. The proportion of enlistments here would in the nature of the case be high, and 250,000 would not be an excessive figure.

There is thus reached a total figure of approximately 5,850,000 for the whole of the United Kingdom. This will include reservists and territorials called to the colours at the beginning of the war both for the navy and army, but excludes men already serving with the regular forces.

This total can be checked by reference to the Board of Trade estimate for enlistment shown in the " Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad." This shows the number of men enlisted in the armies up to the Armistice to be 4,970,000. To this must be added approximately 500,000 men called up to join the colours from the army reserve, special reserve, and pre-war territorials, giving a total not far short of 5,500,000. Similar figures are not available for the navy, but it is a very reasonable conjecture that the numbers would bring the total near the estimate of 5,850,000.

When this enormous total is envisaged, we see the task before those engaged on carrying on the output of munitions and the maintenance of vital services. Clearly if this 5,850,000 Provision had been a net loss the problem would have been for vital practically insoluble. It was not, however, a net loss, P Y, ,, as will be shown immediately, but over and above the operation of factors tending to alleviate the difficulty, the principal steps taken, apart from the intensive use of existing labour, were the following: - (a) The diversion of labour from less vital work, a diversion effected as to the greater part not so much by Government action as by the operation of first patriotic impulse and then economic stress.

(b) The return of men from the forces for causes other than physical disability.

(c) The introduction of new sources of labour, i.e. Belgian, Dominion, and finally enemy prisoner labour, on the one hand and the enormous influx of female labour.

If we take the causes entirely independent of Government action, which reduced the total, the two most important elements are (1) men returning from the forces to civil work, and (2) the natural increase of the population. Under the first head it is probable that the total reached was in the neighbourhood of 700,000. The figure, however, includes both men discharged for disability and men returned from munitions. The number in the latter class is dealt with below.

As to the causes of increase not directed by Government action, these may be set out in the following tabular form, which is necessarily based on a comparatively rough estimate for the occupations covered by the Z8 returns: Increase consequent upon natural growth of male population. .

Net immigration. .. ... .

Boys entering employment earlier than usual.. Older men who deferred retirement or who returned to work after retirement .

Males on strike or lock-out July 1914. Males out of work on an average on any one day July 1914 Men returned to civil work from the forces. .

To these must be added, in respect of the 4,000,000 not covered by Z8, approximately ioo,000, making a total of 2,100,000. This figure is in a large measure conjectural, but if it errs, it probably errs (though not considerably) on the small side. As a matter of fact the actual tables based on Z8 returns show a total of 2,366,- coo. The difference between the two figures may be due to: (1) Inclusion among enlistments of a certain number of men who joined the forces more than once.

(2) Inclusion among enlistments of a certain number of men who would normally have had to be replaced owing to death, disablement, etc., and for other causes, e.g. in consequence of their having become employers.

(3) Possible slight exaggeration by employers of numbers enlisted.

(4) Possible slight exaggeration of total male employment owing to omission of some firms which were shut down.

The true figure is probably therefore somewhere between the two, but for purposes of estimating the total net loss the higher figure of 2,366,000 is taken.

To get the figure for the net loss on the io,610,000 covered by the Z8 returns, there must therefore be subtracted from the 4,896,000 who had enlisted as at July 1918 2,366,000. An examination in the next place of the women employed in industry indicates that at July 1914 the number employed was 3,276,000, and that this had risen by July 1918 to 4,935,000, a net increase of 1,659,000 females. Of these additions to the ranks of industry analysis is precarious, but it is probable that not less than 75% were women who had left work or who entered upon it for the first time and that the remaining quarter were drawn largely from domestic service.

If the male and female replacements are added together the net numerical loss to industry is reduced to the comparatively small figure of 871,000. But this does not in the least represent the real loss to industry. In the first place, while the decrease in the number of males employed represented 23.8%, the increase in females was 50.6%. Without attempting to gauge the comparative values to industry of the sexes, these proportions of themselves indicate almost a quarter decrease of skilled or at any rate experienced persons, compensated for by an increase of unskilled or at best inexperienced persons. Moreover, so far as the male replacements are concerned, to a large extent these were not and could not be of the pre-war quality. To begin with, there was the large group of men discharged as physically unfit from the army. In the second place the newcomers were often, indeed for the most part, boys or men well past the prime of life or available for civilian service because of rejection for military 695,000 25,000 90,000 200,000 40,000 250,000 700,000 2,000,000 Loss to Industry. service. This last statement is indeed amply borne out by an examination of the ages of males employed in Oct. 1918, which shows that approximately 43% were boys under 18 or men over 511 - a very high proportion indeed. When to these considerations is added the fact that never in the history of industry had work to be carried at greater speed, at such continuous pressure, and in such circumstances of physical and mental strain, the deficiency to be filled is difficult to estimate in numbers.

To meet this deficiency the one effective method was the regulation of labour so as to spread the skilled men over the widest possible area, to automatize the work to the last degree, and to introduce unskilled' labour (by which in the last resort is meant woman labour) into every possible piece of work from which a skilled man could be withdrawn. The history of " dilution" is therefore in practice the history of how the deficiency was as far as practicable met. The other expedients, except the direct release of men from the colours, had a much smaller comparative effect. Such expedients as the use of part-time labour and the control of building licences to prevent the prosecution of private work had no doubt their effects. It is claimed, for example,' that 2,400,000 hours of part-time were worked in 1918, and that building licences in respect of work totalling 1,soo,000 were dealt with in the same period. But when it is remembered that the average working year during the war was not less than 3,000 hours, this gives us the time of Boo men, and incredibly composite men at that!

The diversion of men from less vital to vital work was a more serious contribution, and still more serious the release of men from the colours. So far as the first is concerned, however, this was achieved rather by patriotic impulse, and economic and military pressure, than by any direct Government action. Various attempts were made from time to time to close down forcibly the luxury trades, notably by the first National Service Ministry. But these efforts were neither successful nor necessary. Greater forces than orders of Government departments were at work remorselessly weeding out the unnecessary business, and either converting it for use in some effective national capacity or distributing its workpeople to national work. For not only did patriotic citizens resent being kept on private as opposed to war work, but the less patriotic, as compulsory service began to draw on, were quick to realize the protection from military service afforded by work of national importance.

July 1914

July 1918

Metals (including engineering,

etc.). .. .. .


1,824,000 plus 11.7%

Chemicals. .


162,000 plus 2.1 %

Government establishments

(National factories, etc.)


257,000 plus 237.6%

On this point it is perhaps sufficient to give the actual figures of additional males absorbed by July 1918 into the principal occupations that may be described as directly involving war work. In three branches of trade only, and these three the most vital to the prosecution of the war, was there a net increase in the number of males employed at July 1918 as against July 1914, as may be seen from the statistics: - In all other occupations there was a net decrease, which bears something like a direct relation to the remoteness of the industry from immediate war work, reaching at its highest in the building trade a net decrease of 52.1%. Except in the case of actual Government establishments, this huge shifting over must be attributed to causes other than direct Government action, though the machinery which put the changes into operation - the priority lists and the employment exchanges - of course facilitated a natural process which, without these aids, would undoubtedly have taken far longer to complete itself, and might indeed have been, if not. directed, self-destructive. In this respect the employment exchanges rendered a service difficult to overestimate (see Unemployment).

The second device for increasing the available supply was the release of men from the colours. Of all the tasks set to the 'War Cabinet Report for 1918 (Cmd. 325).

Shipbuilding and marine engineering .


Mines and quarries. .. .


Metal smelting, forging, rolling, casting and drawing .

23 4%

Chemicals and explosives


Machinery plant and tools


Arms and ammunition .

Aircraft. .


Transport vehicles .



civilian authorities in control of labour supply, this perhaps of its nature offered the most obstinate difficulties in administration. Nor is this surprising when it is remembered that the men had to be recovered from an army literally gasping for recruits. It has been stated above that 700,000 men in all were released from the colours for civilian work. The vast majority of these were released on medical grounds. The number of fit soldiers actually recorded in Nov. 1916 as having started work was 51,781. The percentages of these over the trades in which they were employed was shown in Sept. 1917 as follows: The actual number of men recovered is perhaps not a fair criterion of the value of the scheme, as many of them were or described themselves as pivotal men, but on the other hand a considerable proportion were found to have been released under a misconception as to their skill. On the whole, however, it was obviously necessary to attempt something of the kind, and when the difficulties are considered the civilian authorities are entitled to congratulate themselves on a not inconsiderable achievement.

This brings us to the really substantial contribution which was by way of bringing into bearing a completely new body of labour, and this resolves itself largely into " dilution." The schemes for bringing in Belgian and Dominion Dilution. labour, like the schemes for part-time labour, were more attractive in appearance than of actual service. So far as the Belgians were concerned, a certain number of skilled men came over in the first rush after the fall of Antwerp. To supplement the ranks of these, an organization, which worked with tireless energy, was set up in Holland to bring men over from that country. But though a good deal was accomplished the results with certain notable exceptions were disappointing. It was found in practice undesirable for various reasons that British and Belgian workmen should work side by side. It followed, therefore, that they could only be employed either in factories solely manned by men of their own nationality, or by firms so large that they could allocate to them a completely separate sphere of work. As a result they came to be employed only by such firms as Vickers, by one or two Belgian firms started in England for the manufacture of munitions, and finally and most successfully at the Birtley national factory. While, therefore, the high hopes originally entertained were not realized, a substantial, if limited, contribution was achieved.

The reenforcement by Dominion labour was less fruitful, and for obvious reasons. In the first place the number of skilled men (and the most acute shortage was always in this class) was not extremely high in the Dominions. But even if the number had been high it was never clear from the point of view of production whether it would not be better to use their services by placing contracts in Canada. Australia, etc. Indeed, it is probably true to say that as the war went on the general tendency was in this direction rather than in the direction of bringing the men over to the United Kingdom. And there were good grounds for this. In the first place, particularly as regards the Australians, there had to be taken into consideration not only the great distances to be covered, but the extreme difficulties with the immense calls on the mercantile marine of providing transport. In the next place, labour conditions as to wages, hours, etc., differed radically as between the Dominions and the mothercountry. To introduce into the same shop men working side by side on the same work at different rates of pay necessarily would be productive of difficulties, and experience showed that anticipations on this score were not ill-founded. In spite, however, of all these considerations a certain number of men were brought from Australia, Canada and South Africa, and on the whole the experiment was not unsuccessful. The numbers were small, but the men worked with zeal and loyalty.' Finally, before dilution is described, there must be-mentioned the employment of German prisoners. From the outset British labour refused to work side by side with these men, and indeed when their employment in the Medway shipways was mooted, a strike was only averted by dropping the proposal. They were in effect confined to agricultural work, and to certain isolated and uncongenial occupations such as quarrying. From the munitions point of view they may be left out of account.

The negotiations which preceded the introduction of dilution are dealt with below in the consideration of the Treasury Agreement of March 21 1915, and the subsequent events. What is described here is merely the mechanism by which a profound change was brought into industry without which it is certain that the munitions programme could never have been carried out.

Before, however, the actual introduction of women on to work previously performed by men is described, it is necessary to make it clear that this introduction on the mechanical side was only rendered possible by the immense simplification of the processes of production. It was the designers of jigs, the manufacturers of the automatic machines that rendered dilution possible, and the credit of making dilution possible must be laid at their door. And it is incidentally interesting to note, as will be noted more than once in the course of describing the regulation of labour, that war necessity introduced great and often beneficial changes in the whole structure of industry that have every appearance of permanence. In so far as the war preached the lesson of the automatic, a far-reaching change had been introduced, whether beneficial or not will be a matter for the future to decide.

There were two fundamental difficulties in the way of dilution. In the first place the employer resented the complete change of his system of working that dilution involved, and this attitude was only changed as the result of a long process of persuasion in which it is fair to say leading employers played an equal part with the officials whose special duty this persuasion was. In the second place there was the deep-seated objection of the trade unions to the invasion of the jealously preserved sphere of the skilled men by overwhelming numbers of possibly permanent competitors. When it is realized that both parties to the scheme - employers and employed - equally resented it the wonder is not that it took so long to launch but that it had in the end so convincing a triumph.

Up to Sept. 1915 practically no progress had been made. On Sept. 9 Mr. Lloyd George made an appeal to the Trades Union Congress at Bristol.' It met with some opposition, but undoubtedly had a profound effect on the labour movement as a whole, and the steady advance may fairly be marked from that date.

O n e immediate and practical result of that speech One P Supply was the establishment of a Central Munitions Labour Commit- Supply Committee (which was partly an extension of tee the National Advisory Committee, referred to below, which had negotiated the Treasury Agreement) with the following objects: " A joint committee representing the National Labour Advisory Committee and the Ministry of Munitions with additional members to advise and assist the Ministry in regard to the transference of skilled labour and the introduction of semi-skilled and unskilled labour for munition work, so as to secure the most productive use of all available labour supplies in the manufacture of munitions." The committee met for the first time and appointed two subcommittees to consider and report on (T) the fixing of wages in connexion with the introduction of semi-skilled and unskilled labour where only skilled workmen were previously employed and (2) the constitution and functions of local labour advisory boards. The proposals of the second committee

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Labour Supply And Regulation'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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