A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


PART 4: Children and the Mining Industry

The future recruitment of labour for the mining industry will depend largely upon the attitudes to the industry which are now being inculcated in miners’ children by their parents and by other agencies. The inquiry therefore gathered a good deal of information on this subject, both from the parents, and from the children themselves.

Miners’ Children of Working Age

The number of children of working age was recorded for each miner, with the following results. A large proportion had no children at all of working age.

No. of Children of Working Age No %
1 child 172 10
2 children 159 9
3 Children 120 7
4 Children 78 5
5 children 53 3
6 children 31 2
7 children 12 1
8 children 10 1
9 children 5 -
10 children 1 -
11 or more children 3 -
No children of working age 1069 62

There was no significant difference in the number of children of working age as between mixed and dominantly mining communities. There appeared to be no connection between number of children of working age and the proportion of miners in the area, except that in areas where more than 50% of the working population were miners there were more with no children of working age (65%) than in areas with less than 50% in mining (60%). There were no significant differences as between expanding and declining areas. A regional analysis also showed no important differences, except that the Central coalfield had slightly more with no children of working age.

An analysis by town, however, did show some very marked differences, both as between the total number of children of working age, and between the number of children per family of working age:

Scottish Miners: number of miners having children of Working Age, By Town

Town No. % Town No. %
Alloa 38 - Larkhall 20 -
Cowdenheath 53 37 Hamilton 46 35
Lochgelly 50 30 Shotts 52 35
Wemyss 71 50 Bathgate 27 -
Stirling 49 43 Ayr 45 40
Dalkeith 64 41 Cummock 36 -
Musselburgh 53 34 Dalmellington 38 30

It will be seen that Wemyss has the highest proportion of children of working age (50%), with Stirling, Dalkeith and Ayr occupying the next highest places, with 40% or over.

42 43 44 45

The Occupations of Miners’ Children

It appeared in Part 2 that to a considerable extent miners have come from mining families, and that most sons in a miner’s family went into the pits. Data was therefore collected on the present occupations of miners’ children in order to determine to what extent miners’ children are now entering the industry. Information was collected for both sons and daughters, and the following diagram shows the occupational distribution at the time of the inquiry - or, if miners’ children were at that time in the Forces, their occupation before being called up:

Regular Forces


Farm work, Agriculture



Office work



Other, unemployed

Unoccupied, married life



DIAGRAM 16: Miners Children: Present Occupation but if in Forces , occupation before call- up by sex.

It will be seen that over one-half of the miners’ sons had gone into mining, the remainder being distributed in small, but fairly equal, proportions amongst ten other occupational categories.

Of the daughters, a very small proportion, of course, had entered the mining industry. Apart from the large proportion who were unoccupied and unemployed - largely accounted for by the married women and housewives - factory work, distribution and office work accounted for most of the miners’ daughters who were employed.

The war caused only slight variations in these patterns, except for the large numbers who went into military service.

The present occupation of miners’ sons, analysed by age, revealed no significant differences in the proportion of those employed in mining at various ages. There were some small differences in the proportion employed in some of the other occupations:

Scottish Miners’ Sons: Present Occupation, Analysed by Age

Present Occupation Summary 14-19 20-24 25 & over
No.% % No. % No. % No. %
Mining 45 43 44 45
Forces, NAAFI, etc., 27 9 37 33
Others, Unemployed 6 9 5 5
Engineering 4 5 4 3
Transport 3 2 3 5
Office Work 1 2 - 1
Farm work, agriculture 3 7 1 1
Factory 3 4 2 3
Building 3 6 2 1
Distributive 3 10 1 1
Unoccupied 1 2 1 1
No Answer 1 2 - 1
SAMPLE ALL MINERS’ SONS: 1028 100 264 100 309 100 421 100

On the other hand, some proportion of the older men who were in the Forces at the time of the inquiry had been miners before their call-up. In this case, the two older age-groups would show a larger percentage in mining than the youngest group, instead of appearing equal as they do in the table above. Over the whole sample, irrespective of age, while 45% of miners’ sons were in the mines at the time of the inquiry, this proportion was 54% if those called up, but formerly in the mines, were taken into account. * The majority of those in the forces were in the older age-groups, so that these would have a larger proportion of miners than the 14-19 group. This indicates that miners’ sons leaving school are entering mining less frequently than formerly.

Other data collected shed some light upon the problem of who it is who makes the final decision that a boy shall, or shall not, enter the mines. It is of some importance to know this for the purpose of influencing future recruitment.

It was clear from the data that the majority of both boys and girls made their own choice of occupation, according to the statement of the parent.

Female male


Mother and Father

Ministry of Labour direction


Juvenile Employment Board

No choice




DIAGRAM 17 : Miners’ Children: who chose present occupation by sex (14-19 age group) of child

This Diagram illustrates the data for the 14-19 age-group. There was little variation amongst the sons in the two later age-groups. The very large increase in married daughters in the later ages made comparison of sons and daughters of little value.

Analysing by sex, it appears that the majority of both sons and daughters of miners made their own choice of occupation. “Father’s choice” and “No choice” was mentioned much more frequently for miners’ sons than for daughters. The other categories, such as “Mother’s Choice”, "Juvenile Employment Board, etc.", were rarely given as those who chose occupations for sons, although they were of greater importance in the case of daughters.

It seems, then, that the choice of occupation is left largely to the child himself. However, two points must be borne in mind in interpreting these results:

(i) they are based on the statement of the father, not on that of the child;

(ii) they are concerned only with the final decision, which will naturally have been conditioned to a considerable extent by the attitude of parents, teachers and others throughout the child’s life.

Those who went into mining, however, chose this for themselves slightly less frequently than those going into other occupations. The second factor of importance in causing miners’ children to go into mining was the absence of any alternative. This was rarely mentioned by the fathers of those who had gone into other than he decided that he should enter some other occupation. The mother, teacher, Juvenile Employment Board, etc., did not often decide that a miner’s child should enter mining.

On the other hand, amongst those miners’ children who entered, on the advice of someone else, other occupations than mining, the father chose the occupation less frequently, while the mother, the teacher, the Juvenile Employment Board and the Ministry of Labour chose more frequently. Few in other occupations had entered them because there was no alternative. But most children who entered other occupations chose them for themselves.

The following Diagram shows the relative importance of the various agents of occupations choice according to whether the choice was mining or some other occupation. Comparison with Diagram 17 above will show that the relative importance of the agencies is little different when analysed by the child’s sex than when analysed by occupation. It is probable that the difference shown in the next Diagram, in those who chose mining, and those who chose other occupations, are in fact a function of the sex of the child, and not of the occupation chosen. Mining is dominantly a male occupation, so that daughters would go almost exclusively into other occupations.

Other Occupations Mining


Mother and Father


Juvenile Employment Board


Ministry of Labour direction


No choice



DIAGRAM 18: Miners’ Children: Present Occupation by “Who chose it?”

[10] See Diagram 16, P.42.

46 47 48

Fathers’ preferences for their sons’ occupation

The fathers of boys still at school were asked what occupation they would prefer them to enter. The number and age of the boys concerned were as follows:

Scottish Miners: Sons still at School

Age No. %
15-19 years 11 2
10-14 years 279 44
5-9 years 344 54

More than half (55%) of the fathers said that they would prefer their sons to take any job but mining, a few of this group (8%) also specifying a preferred occupation. Only 3% said they would like their sons to go into mining:

Scottish Miners: “What Occupation would you like for your son?”

No. %
Anything but mining 47
Anything but mining, plus a trade 7
Anything but mining, plus a profession 1
Mining 3
Trades, e.g. Bricklayer, Carpenter 17
Professions, e.g. Teacher, Draughtsman 5
Let child choose 10
Undecided, not thought about it yet 7
Others 2
No Answer 1

The fathers were asked for their reasons for their preferences. A large proportion gave no answer to this question, but one general characteristic became obvious. A large proportion of those answering were apparently influenced in their choice of occupation for their sons not so much by a concern that their children should enter the occupation most suitable for them, (although because this concern was not expressed in this connection, its absence cannot be assumed), as by a strong dislike of mining as such.

Scottish Miners: “Why do you prefer this occupation for your son?”

No. No. %
General disapproval of mining 30
Good future, pay, prospects, etc. 9
Bad conditions of mining 13
Bad pay of mining 4
Suitable to child’s abilities 4
Child’s own wish 6
No other job for him to do 2
Unemployment -
Others 3
No Answer 29

On the whole, the data in the two preceding tables suggest that most fathers had given little constructive thought to their sons’ future. What does emerge is their general objection to it than upon special characteristics of it. This is in part due, no doubt, to the common parental ambition for their children’s success. On the other hand, it is possible that miners’ opposition to mining as an occupation has to some extent grown beyond the stage of dissatisfaction with certain features of it, to a stereotyped social attitude which is accepted without need of justification. Further evidence which in some degree supports this suggestion arises from the following section.

Attitudes to mining as a career for young people

Both fathers and mothers were asked specifically what they thought of mining as a career for young people. The following diagram shows that the great majority of both fathers and mothers thought mining an unsatisfactory career, for various reasons:

DIAGRAM 19: “What do you think of mining as a career for young people?”

The Proportions who thought mining satisfactory or unsatisfactory

A slightly larger proportion of the men than of the women thought that a mining career was satisfactory. Other sex differences emerge from the following Diagram, showing the individual answers to this question:

Housewives Miners

Would be Satisfactory if pits nationalized; if more mechanization

No answer, Dont know; leave it to them

Satisfactory . like it, born to it etc:

Unhealthy, unsafe, dangerous

Too arduous, bad conditions, hard life, hours too long

No opportunities no promotion no pension, badly paid etc

Unqualified dislike


DIAGRAM 20: Miners and Housewives: “What do you think of mining as a future for young people?”

Here again, the largest single reason for rejecting mining as a career was “unqualified dislike”, which was expressed slightly more frequently by housewives than by miners. In addition, many mentioned bad wages, bad working conditions and the absence of opportunity for promotion, these things being mentioned much oftener by miners than by housewives. Generally speaking, the miners appear to have a more reasoned attitude to mining (being more intimately concerned with it) than the housewives.

A regional analysis showed little difference between miners and housewives in the response to this question. There are other regional differences, however, of some importance. “Unqualified dislike” was the largest single category in all regions. It was especially common, as might be expected, in the Central coalfield; but on the other hand, the proportion in the Fife and Clackmannan area approached in size * that of the depressed Central area. It thus appears that the better conditions existing in the Fifeshire area, and the higher proportion of immigrant miners there, has not meant that the Fifeshire mining community is generally more contented. At the same time. Fifeshire also had slightly more who thought mining was satisfactory as a career. It was the Lothian coalfield, however, which had the largest proportion mentioning dangerous and arduous conditions, bad pay and insecurity. The Central, and most depressed area, had generally a smaller proportion who mentioned these specific shortcoming of the mining industry as a career.

Unhealthy, dangerous etc:

Too arduous, bad conditions, etc:

No opportunities no promotion no pension, badly part etc

Unqualified dislike

Satisfactory. like it, born to it etc:

Would be Satisfactory if pits nationalized; if more mechanization

No answer, Dont know; leave it to them

DIAGRAM 20 a : Miners and Housewives: “What do you think of mining as a career for young people?”

[11] Cf. pp. 31, 32, 33, 36, 37.

49 50 51

The occupational preferences of school-leavers

Some 900 children who were expected to leave school in the near future were asked to complete a schedule under supervision, which asked them to make, by means of paired comparisons, a choice of occupations from a list presented to them. There were seven suggested occupations: engineering, transport, building, farm work, factory work, office work and mining. Each was compared with the others, and the child was asked to choose between them.

The following Diagram shows the proportion preferring each of the non-mining occupations to mining, and the proportion who preferred mining. It also indicates the rank order of preference for the various occupations:

Those who prefer:-

Transport Engineering Building Factory Farm Work Office

Those who prefer mining.

DIAGRAM 21: School leavers: Occupational preferences.

It will be seen that all of the six occupations suggested as alternatives to mining were in fact preferred to mining by the great majority of the children. Transport and engineering were the two most popular occupations, and office work the least popular. Building, factory and farm work occupied intermediate positions.

An analysis by type of school showed little difference in the preferences of those children attending Junior Secondary Schools and those attending Senior Secondary Schools, except for a slight tendency for the latter to prefer occupations calling for better education. This was most clear in the higher proportion of Senior School children who preferred engineering and office work:

School leavers: Those who preferred other Occupations to mining, by type of school

Junior Secondary School Senior secondary school
No. % No. %
Proportion preferring engineering 91 95
Proportion preferring Transport 94 95
Proportion preferring Building 89 87
Proportion preferring Farm work 85 81
Proportion preferring Factory 87 87
Proportion preferring Office 72 81
SAMPLE 708 100 151 100

The analysis by expanding and declining areas showed a consistent tendency for those in the expanding areas to prefer other occupations than mining, except in the case of office work, where the proportions were equal for both types of area:

School leavers: the proportion who preferred other occupations to mining, by type of area

Expanding Areas Declining Areas
No. % No. %
Proportion preferring engineering 93 91
Proportion preferring transport 95 92
Proportion preferring building 91 84
Proportion preferring farm work 86 81
Proportion preferring factory 89 83
Proportion preferring office 74 74
SAMPLE 548 100 311 100

A regional analysis showed that the popularity of mining amongst school leavers varied to some degree between regions. Mining was most popular in Ayrshire, where an average of 15% said they preferred it to other occupations. It was least popular in Lothian, with an average of only 8% who preferred mining to other occupations. The figures involved here, as in the following analyses, are small, so that the differences are not very reliable.

A further analysis, by the proportion of miners in the working population, again showed only small differences, which indicate that mining is slightly more popular where miners constitute 25-50% of the working population.

The analysis by age showed small differences only, suggesting that among the oldest group (15 and 16 years of age) the unpopularity of mining was slightly higher.

The analysis which showed the most marked differences was that made for those who had, or had not, their father or brother in the mining industry:

Father and/or Brother in Mining Father and/or Brother not in Mining

% Preferring mining to:-





Farm work



DIAGRAM 22: School Leavers: Those who prefer mining to other occupations

It will be seen that those children who came from a mining family preferred mining to other occupations far more often than children from non-mining families. The occupational order of preference was the same for both samples.


(1) It appears that to a large extent, miners’ children are left to make their own choice of occupation. Where other agencies make the choice for them, these are rarely outside the family: school, employment board, etc., are unimportant, at least in the final decision. At the same time, while the child’s choice of occupation may ostensibly be free, the final decision will naturally be the outcome of past conditioning by parents, school and other factors. Thus, any campaign intended to encourage recruitment to mining which was directed solely or mainly to the child would find itself in conflict with the influence of parents and others, those object would generally be to discourage entry to the mining industry. Such a campaign should be directed equally, if not to a greater extent, to the parents and the schools, in an attempt to bring their influence into co-operation, rather than conflict, with the purpose of the campaign.

(2) The majority of miners were strongly antagonistic to the prospect of their sons’ entering the mining industry. On the other hand, more than one half of their sons had, in fact, been in the pits up to the time of their call-up. Moreover, not only did some miners have a positive influence in deciding that their sons should, enter mining, but the great majority of schoolchildren who, when questioned, said they preferred mining to other suggested occupations, had their father or brother, or both, already in the pit. Few children without a mining background preferred this as a future occupation. This suggests that although recruitment to mining has fallen in the last few years, it still remains largely an hereditary occupation. It is therefore probable that a recruitment campaign would be more successful in attracting more young people to the mines if it were directed especially to the mining communities. On the other hand, mining as an occupation might well gain more social prestige and more general attractiveness were its hereditary nature to come to an end, and if labour were to move as freely in and out of it as it does in other occupations. Such mobility would assist in breaking down the present general ignorance of mining as an occupation, and, in consequence, help to raise the prestige of the miner amongst workers in other occupations.

(3) It is important to remember how small was the proportion of miners’ sons who went into mining because of a positive liking for it. Parental influence, family tradition and the absence of any alternative employment appear to have been the main factors inducing miners’ sons to enter the industry. Even Fifeshire, where working and other conditions are better, had almost as great a proportion of miners as the Central region expressing an unqualified dislike of mining as an occupation for their sons. The possibility must not be ignored of there having developed a widespread attitude of dislike for the mining industry no longer based specifically upon its shortcomings. If this is so, then improvements in conditions of work, in wages, etc., will not in themselves cause a rehabilitation of the status of the industry. A simultaneous attempt would have to be made to obtain a general acceptance by both miners and non-miners of the national importance and honourable nature of mining as an occupation. On the other hand, material improvement might be for the miner, the only impressive evidence of the increased national importance of mining.

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