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Manpower

Responsibility for man—and woman—power, both for recruit-ment into the armed forces and for supply to industry, fell upon the Ministry of Labour, now rechristened the Ministry of Labour and National Service. The Schedule of Reserved Occupations, issued well before the war, had prevented the indiscriminate calling up of the skilled men and the other important classes of industrial workers needed to produce the weapons without which the military could not fight; and the presence of a million unemployed in 1939 was, for the time being, insurance enough against any generał shortage of labour. 1 Hargreaves and Gowing: dvii Industry and Trade, Chapter xvii, particularly pp. 428 and 429. 2 Ibid., Chapter xvi. The Control of Employment Act, 1939, empowered the Minister, by order, to prohibit employers from advertising for, and from engaging or re-engaging, specified classes of employees without consent of the Minister. But even these powers seemed at the time too long a step in the direction of industrial conscription. The first eighteen months of war were a period of investigation and enąuiry. The demand for manpower was controlled by the size of the army, far and away the largest of the services, and by the shortage of skilled men. Labour supply was very much a problem of dilution. Factories had to learn to make do with older men and women; older semi-skilled men (and women) had to be trained for jobs classed as skilled; and older men from other cMJian employment and women, many of whom had never been in a factory before, all had to be put to work on muni­tions, to take the places left by the calling up of the younger men into the armed forces. The rate at which the industrial demand for labour generally could be developed thus depended upon the bring-ing together by each contractor of that nucleus of skilled men with­out which undertakings could neither begin work nor train the semi-skilled and unskilled labour.1 It became the business of the Ministry of Labour to cali up the men and women needed by the armed forces; to seek out skilled men and to transfer them to the war industries; and finally, to conjure up a mass of unskilled labour to fili the vacancies which would be created as the factories tooled up to pro­duce to military reąuirements. The Ministry, in preparation for the task, set themselves to establish the naturę and dimensions of the demands to be expected; and to ascertain the numbers of men and women who could be called upon. Parliament, after Dunkirk, passed almost by acclamation on May 22nd, 1940, an Emergency Powers Act which reąuired all per­sons to place themselves, their services and their property, un-reservedly at the disposal of His Majesty. An Undertakings (Restric-tion of Engagement) Order issued under authority of the Act prohibited new engagements in engineering and in building except through the employment exchanges; gave the Minister power, in consultation with the supply departments, to declare work to be of national importance and reąuired that no man leave nor be dis-missed from such work except by consent of the National Service Officer. Between August 1940 and May 1941 a series of industrial registrations were carried out for the purpose, among others, of identifying particular classes of workers whose skills had become unusually scarce. The Schedule of Reserved Occupations was 1 Hancock and Gowing: British War Economy, p. 292. amended in 1941. The generał age of reservation was raised; and men reserved by their age were distinguished from those protected by the naturę of their work, a distinction which gave the Ministry an opportunity to consider individual cases. Men above military age were reąuired to register for possible service in war industries, and a beginning was made with the mobilisation of women by the registration of certain age groups. An Essential Works Order was applied to undertakings engaged on work essential to the defence of the realm, the efficient prosecution of the war or to the life of the community. All scheduled undertakings were subject to the Restric-tion of Engagements Order; but no undertakings, however essential, would be scheduled, unless the conditions of employment and arrangements for welfare were satisfactory. Once scheduled, an undertaking had to guarantee a week's wages even though there might be no work in hand. The Prime Minister in March 1941 issued a directive which fixed a limit to the size of the army. This decision was a landmark of manpower history. The Army—the largest single claimant on manpower—had been set bounds which it might not pass. The bounds had been fixed in relation not merely to strategie necessities and desirabilities, but also to manpower resources as a whole and to the production of eąuipment. Moreover, the urge to husband well its resources had been implanted in the Army.1 Manpower reąuirements had been surveyed, men and women avail-able for essential employment had been registered and the demand, temporarily at least, had been defined. The Minister of Labour had eąuipped himself with the necessary powers and made his arrange­ments for reception and welfare, particularly of women, many of whom were unused to the conditions of industrial life. Men and women had willingly sought employment on essential work; employers had looked for Government contracts and whole factories had been turned over to war production. The transfer into war industry by direction of those employed elsewhere, and even more, of those who had not before been seeking factory work at all, was used sparingly. Industrial conscription needed to be enforced, in fact, only on the margins of the war economy.2 But the powers were there. When after 1941, there began to develop that "famine of men" and "hunger for women" which had been foreseen by the Manpower Reąuirements Committee in August 1940,3 the Ministry 1 Hancock and Gowing: British War Economy, p. 289. 2 Ibid., p. 309. 3 Ibid., pp. 284-285. of Labour were eąuipped to satisfy those appetites. Labour then being released by the concentration of the civiiian trades was moved into the factories producing for war, and so were the new recruits for industry whose sendces had been enlisted under authority of the Registration of Employment Orders. The demands of the Sendces soon rose again, not only to replace losses but also to provide for the larger tasks imposed by global warfare and the impending invasion of Europę. The army had by now built up its capital stock of eąuipment and stores and the labour reąuirements of the Ministry of Supply could be expected to fali. But the Joint War Production Planning Staff were ąuite unable to see how the sum of the demands for labour could possibly be met from the manpower resources of the economy even when mobilisa-tion had been stretched to the limit of registering for employment the forty-five- and fifty-year-old women—calling up the grand-mothers as it was described at the time. Comparison of reąuirements and supplies showed that an addition of 2,689,000 men and women was needed, of whom two-thirds had to be men fit for the armed forces. On the other side, no more than 1,600,000 all told was fore-seen as the maximum possible supply. None of the reąuirements had been overstated, it appeared; and no potential supply had been neglected. Essential demands for labour could no longer be satisfied at the expense of the inessential. Under pressure of scarcity all demands had become essential. It was now a ąuestion of choosing between the more and the less essential. If some additional demands were to be met other essential demands would have to contract. There was no other source from which men and women could be got. The problem of labour supply from 1943 till the end of the war was one of allocation between all users, Sendce, supply and civilian— budgeting in a word. A reduction in Sendce reąuirements or an entitlement to men less than the original estimate automatically brought about some reduc­tion in the production programme and so in the demand for labour from the department responsible for supply. But labour was not easily released in 1943 and 1944; nor, even when it was, did the release necessarily occur in the places where the demands existed. The Ministry of Labour had not only to provide for a transference between industries and from outside industry into the factories, but for a movement also between places. The emphasis was on mobility. The machinery of the Ministry had to be turned and adapted to the difhcult job of going once more through the list of fit men of military age who were still deferred, of identifying workers who could be considered mobile; and of transferring into "scarlet" and "red" areas—the needs of which could only be met from elsewhere— mobile workers already engaged on essential work in the "amber" and "green" areas where there was still the possibility of recruiting from among those who, though otherwise suitable for employment, had to be classed as immobile. The Ministry of Labour were as-sisted in their duties by the Location of Industry Committees of the Ministry of Production. The Minister (of Production) was ready to disallow the placing of additional orders, without his specific approval, in areas designated by those Committees; and the Minister of Supply, when his demands began in fact to contract, showed his willingness to free the labour where it was wanted by other claimants, generally the Ministry of Aircraft Production, rather than in the places where the release would have best suited the convenience and economy of his Ministry.1