A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

5. Conclusions

1. Women in employment: Autumn 1943

A very high proportion of the women now in employment are married women. principally married women with fewer children than average, and women between 25 - 45. Accordingly it would seem that apart from the difficulties attendant upon the higher average age of women in employment they have far more personal difficulties to contend with than had the bulk of women in peace-time.

Despite the number of women moved into jobs strange to them the proportion with training does not appear to have fallen below the pre-war proportion, presumably because of the training measures adopted by the Ministry of Labour and Industrialists.

The effect of education upon choice of work is strong. Those with a post-elementary education avoid factory work and go in for commerce, the professions and distribution. Since the war began, however, many former clerical workers have become operatives, while few operatives have become clerical workers.

Those who went into industry from the home had mostly worked before marriage. They returned to their old jobs or entered the engineering and metal industries. Only a small proportion of the women who came from home were totally green labour.

The overall picture would suggest that few women in the most easily tapped sources of labour, that is, the single women at home and the married women without children or with only one or two children, have escaped the administrative net, while the younger ones have moved decisively on to war production.

2. Attitudes toward post-war employment

The post-war labour force of women, now 18-59 years, should be between 20 - 40% less than it was in 1943. It should not be greatly altered from before the war so far as the marital status of those employed is concerned, but a higher proportion than before the war of women now 35 - 45 years may be seeking work, raising, perhaps, fresh problems of employment.

Children are a factor influencing married women to continue work, but the fact that working married women have fewer children than the average suggests that there is a limit to the number of children a woman can care for while she works.

The general trend is for women to wish to move away from engineering back into their old jobs. Few women now outside it wish to enter the engineering industry.

Regionally the greatest increase in the number of women employed may be, if the wishes of the women there are realised, in the North, North-East and North Midland regions.

Only a quarter of those who came into industry from their homes propose to go on working after the war. These are principally women over 35.

It is possible, making full allowance for the number of women now in the services, that if women of 18 - 59 years are able to work or not as they wish, the total number of women seeking employment in these age groups will not be greater then it would have been if the normal process of increase had operated since 1931.


3. Aspects of Working women's altitudes toward employment in general

The advantages of working appear to have outweighed the disadvantages at the time of this survey. What is not known is whether women would rather work than marry or stay at home, given the choice.

The kind of choice women exercised in peace time was limited and may have been affected by the overall limitation of the jobs they could do.

Work after marriage is condemned by the majority of single women and by a minority of married women. It is suggested that this may arise from a lack of appreciation on the part of single women of the frequent financial necessity of work after marriage.

Where a man and a woman are competing for a job the majority of women think in principle that it should go to the best for the job, but recognise in fact the greater necessity of the married man or woman with responsibilities of her own, when the alternative is not another job but unemployment.

Friction between men and women working together would seem to be slight.

Economic pressure is the greatest single factor making women work. The compensations are mainly company and experience which work gives. The society of the place where they work, and their function in it, seems in fact to be of major importance.

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