A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


As a background to the part of this inquiry concerned with the numbers of old persons in employment, it was decided to obtain details of their personal circumstances and to examine the general effects of age and employment upon these circumstances. In this part of the report, therefore, some personal and economic material thought to be relevant to the points at issue is described. Wherever possible a distinction is drawn between old persons working and those not working.

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(a) Sources of income

Although figures are available showing the number of State Pensioners aged 60 and over, the number of persons receiving pensions of all kinds has not been known, nor is very much known about the extent to which pensions are supplemented from other sources. The following pages deal, therefore, with the proportion of old persons who were pensioners, the types of pension they received and what sources of income they had other than pensions.

Altogether, 62% of persons aged 60 and over were pensioners. If men 60-64 years of age are excluded from this figure and the sample thus made to correspond in age distribution with the ages at which State pensions are available the percentage of old persons who received pensions of all kinds was 71%. A lower proportion of those in employment than of those not in employment were pensioners. This is particularly marked among men. 79% of those not in employment were pensioners, compared with 36% of those in employment. If men aged 60-64 are excluded the comparative figures were 79% and 68%. A number of those who did not receive a pension must have been in occupations which were not insurable, (notably small shopkeepers), and had nothing but their savings to fall back upon should they retire. In these circumstances it is understandable that they should wish to continue working as long as possible. (43).

The proportion of pensioners was higher than average in the lowest economic group only. Thus 85% of those in the lowest economic group, were pensioners compared with the average of 63%. In the upper economic groups the proportion of pensioners was considerably lower than average. A lower proportion of those in employment than of those not in employment were pensioners in all economic groups. It is of interest that 13% of the lowest economic group among those not working did not receive any kind of pension and must, therefore, have been dependent on other sources of income, whether savings, allowances from others, or lodgers.

All pensioners were asked what kind of pension they received. When a pensioner received more than one pension each was recorded. Altogether, 81% of pensioners received an Old Age Pension, 11% a Widow’s Pension + and 32% a Supplementary Pension. In order of importance the remaining types of pension were Superannuation, 6%, Government pensions other than contributory and non-contributory old age and widow’s pensions, (that is, Service Pensions, Disability Pensions, and Police Pensions as well as allowances in respect of sons killed on war service), 2%, Blind Pensions 1%, and other Pensions, principally pensions from former employers, 1%. (45).

Women were dependent on Old Age and Widow's Pensions to a greater extent than men, since 96% of women received one or other of these pensions compared with 85% of men. Men, on the other hand, received pensions other than State pensions more frequently than women, and thus had a wider range of resources. It has been recognised that among old persons women are more frequently in need than men, and in 1945 a higher proportion of women than of men received Supplementary Pensions. Since Supplementary Pensions are based on need, the difference between 27% of men pensioners who receive Supplementary Pensions and 36% of women pensions may be a rough indication of the extent to which women are, proportionately, in greater need than men. In numbers affected the difference is even greater, since for every three men with a Supplementary pension there are eight women.

The proportion of Old Age Pensioners did not fluctuate greatly at different ages, but the proportion of old persons with Supplementary Pensions increased considerably with age. Among men, 12% of pensioners received Supplementary Pensions at 65-69 compared with 50% at 80 and over, while among women, 18% received a Supplementary Pension at 60-64 compared with 53% at 80 and over. If Supplementary Pensions are taken as a criterion of need, therefore, need increases directly with age.

It has been said that fewer old persons in employment than those not in employment received pensions of all kinds. Of pensioners who were working, however, a higher proportion received Old Age and Widow’s Pensions than did those who were not working. Among those who were not working a higher proportion, on the other hand, received other types of pension, such as Superannuation and Government Pensions and Industrial pensions generally. It appears that men who were receiving a pension other than a State pension did not continue to work in old age as frequently as those who did. Thus, 6.7% of all men over 60 were in receipt of Superannuation. 6.2% did not work. 72% of all men over 65 received Old Age Pensions. 46% did not work. (45).

The proportion of pensioners receiving Old Age and Widow’s Pensions declined in successive economic groups, but in the higher income groups the proportion receiving other types of pension increased. (46).

All old persons were asked whether they had a source of income other than a pensions, and 54% of the Pensioners and 91% of those without a Pension did, in fact, have another source of income. 2% of all old persons aged 60 and over had no pension and no other source of income and lived, presumably, on the charity of others. (47).

If old persons in employment are excluded, (since their wages or income from their business must be considered as a source of income), and old persons not in employment considered separately, some clear associations between age and other sources of income can be seen. The proportion of old persons receiving an income from a source other than pensions decreased steadily with advancing age. A reference to the earlier paragraph on Supplementary Pensions shows that this decline in the proportions receiving income from other sources than pensions is compensated for by a increase with age in the proportion of old persons receiving Supplementary Pensions.

The sources from which all old persons drew their incomes other than pensions were recorded and grouped in eleven categories. The majority of all old persons drew their additional income from their own or their husband’s or wife’s employment, 23% drew it from property, investments or private sources, 19% from children, and small percentages from boarders or lodgers or from N.H.I. and other benefits. (50).

It is noticeable that those in employment received money from the sources listed much less frequently, (save in the case of own employment or own business), than those not in employment. Among men who were not working, for example, 11%, 23% and 16% received money from property and investments, compared with 1%, 1% and 1% of men who were working. A further factor which is of importance is that allowances from children, or money derived from children living at home, were less frequent among those who were working than among those who were not. This is not to say that old people who were working had no children who were in employment, since it may mean only that as they were working they had no need to call upon their children for assistance. It is an indication of the extra burden placed on the children when the old people stop work, and supports the suggestion made earlier that one effect of unemployment among old persons may be to persuade children, faced with the necessity of dividing an unaltered income among more people, to leave home, and so enable the old person to draw a Supplementary Pension.

Consideration of the association between age and sources of income indicates that among men who were not in employment, the principal effect of age was a decrease in the proportion drawing N.H.I. and other benefits at 65 and over. The decrease was due mainly to the transfer of the recipients to the pensioner category. The fact that 42% of the men aged 60-64, drew N.H.I. and other benefits supports the suggestion made earlier that the high proportion of men of this age to be found in the lowest economic group is due to their physical incapacity for work. (51). Among women, the proportions naming boarders or lodgers, sons and daughters, property, investments, as sources of income increased with age. This increase may be due primarily to the increasing number of widows in successive age groups, and the transfer to them of their husband’s resources. An analysis by status shows that widows gave all the categories named as sources of income more frequently than married women.

Among old persons in employment the principal effects of age were an increase in the proportions who drew their income from a shop or business of their own.

As might be expected, sources of income varied considerably according to the economic group of the old person. The proportion of old persons relying partly on boarders or lodgers is highest in the lowest income groups, both among those who are working and those who are not working. Among those who are not working and who fall in the lowest income group boarders and lodgers are their chief source of income apart from pensions, with N.H.I. and other benefits the second main source.

Sons and daughters are, as has been said, a source of income to old persons almost wholly in the case of old persons who are not in employment. Allowances from sons and daughters are, proportionately, a more important source of income to the lowest income group than to any of the others, however. The employment of daughters at home is also most important to the lower income groups, but the employment of sons is proportionately most important to old persons in the middle income group. This is probably due to the higher wages paid to men since a household dependent on a daughter is more likely to be in the lower economic groups than a household dependent on a son. (52).

The preceding paragraphs have dealt with the sources of income of all old persons regardless of whether they had a pension or not. Separate analyses were made, however, of the sources of income, other than pensions, of pensioners of all kinds. It has been shown earlier that 56% of pensioners, and all but 2% of non-pensioners, had such other sources of income, and comparisons between the two groups, pensioners and non-pensioners, show that pensioners as a group depended on boarders and lodgers and the support of their children more frequently than non-pensioners.

In general, pensioners were more dependent on other people than are old people without pensions. It could be said, however, that those not in employment were also more frequently dependent on others than those in employment, whether they were pensioners or not. The important distinction would, therefore, appear to be between those who are working and those who are not, since employment or lack of it broadly decided the character of their income.

[13] Widow's Pensions automatically become Old Age Pensions at 70, but their recipients sometimes continue to refer to them as Widow’s Pensions.

(b) The activity of old Persons

In view of the many discussions which have taken place on the housing problems of the aged it was thought desirable to discover what proportion of old persons considered themselves to be handicapped in their ordinary domestic tasks: how far they were confined to their bed or home: and, (in view of the possible effects upon them of numerous flights of stairs, and a suggestion that the first floor is the greatest height to which they could be asked to ascend), on what floor their room or bedroom was at the time of the inquiry.

All women aged 60 and over were asked whether or not they were active housewives. If they took at least a half-share in the housekeeping they were classed as active. On this basis, 80% of the women over 60 were active housewives. The proportion of active housewives aged 60-64 was 90%, however, compared with 48% at 80 and over. Married women were active housewives to a somewhat greater extent than widowed or single women. In the lowest economic group 84% of the women were active housewives, and, since this was the only group which differed significantly from the average of 80%, it must be assumed that since a high proportion of women in this group lived alone the increased proportion might be due to their having been forced by circumstances to remain active housewives. (54).

2% of all old people were unable to leave their beds. The number unable or unwilling to leave their houses totalled 7%. A lower proportion of men than of women were bedridden at 70 and over, or housebound at all ages. Ageing would seem to have a greater effect on the activity of women than of men, therefore, in so far as these restrictions are concerned, although a physiological difference is not proved since it may be one arising from custom or habit. (55).

All old people were asked on what floor of the house their room was situated. When they had access to more than one room on different levels, as in the majority of cases, they were asked on which floor their bedroom was situated. Differences between men and women were slight. The principal differences were associated with age. It is of interest to note, in view of the suggestion mentioned above, that 93% of old persons did not in 1945 have to ascend higher than the first floor of their homes. With advancing age, however, increasing numbers of old persons move, where they can, to a room lower down in their house, since the proportion of old persons on the ground floor increases from 10% at 60-64 years to 25% at 80 and over. (56).

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(c) The Housing of Old Persons.

The general purpose of this section of the report is to show the extent to which old persons live alone or with others, and their housing position; to indicate how far old persons are themselves householders, and thus independent of others for accommodation; to show what payment they make for their accommodation, and in the case of old persons living alone, a group about whom concern had been expressed, to discover the extent to which they do their own cooking.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 12,200,000 households in England and Wales. 36% of these contained persons aged 60 and over in 1945. 12% contained old persons only, (5% old persons living alone).

Broadly speaking, old persons live in the smaller households and very largely with other old persons. (57). Again, 67% of all households of one person were households of old persons, while 26% of households of two persons were composed of old persons only. In households containing a greater number of persons then two the proportions with persons aged 60 or over in them varied from 32% to 21%. Altogether, 45% of households with old persons in them were composed of one or two persons, compared with 22% of households with no old persons in them. Thus old people are mainly to be found in small units, widely scattered throughout the rest of the population, a factor which should be considered when plans for colonies of old people are discussed. (57).

A Regional analysis of these figures shows that there are greater proportions of households with old persons in them in the South, South-west and South-east than in other regions. Similarly, a greater proportion of households in rural districts, 41% than in urban districts, 35% contained old persons.

It has been stated that 5% of all households in England and Wales were composed of solitary persons aged 60 and over. These old persons, treated as individuals and not as households, numbered 11% of all old persons aged 60 and over. 5% of men lived alone, compared with 15% of the women. The proportion of old persons living alone increased with age, from 8% at 60-64 to 15% at 80 and over. Thus, although with increasing age it is more satisfactory for old persons to live with others, the situation among old persons not in institutions was that one in ten of men aged 80 and over and one in five of women aged 80 and over lived alone, and were dependent for assistance upon persons outside their own households. (58) .

The number of old persons who were living alone at the date of the survey can be calculated from the sample as approximately 600,000, of whom nearly four-fifths were women. A small percentage were separated from their husbands or wives, but 78% of the women and 65% of the men were widows or widowers, the remainder being single. There were no differences between urban and rural districts, but regionally London differed from the average of 11% in that 17% of old persons in the London region lived alone. An analysis by economic group showed that 25% of old persons in the lowest economic group lived alone, compared with 2%, 3%, 2% and 3% in the remaining groups.

Finally, again in terms of individuals and not of households it can be estimated that in addition to old persons living alone a further 23% of old persons lived together in units of two old persons, 3% in units of three old persons, and less than one per cent in larger units. Nevertheless, 62% of old persons lived with other persons below the age of 60.

Population and Housing in England and Wales, mid 1945. ‘Social Survey, 1945'.

It is clear that old persons who lived alone were poorer as a group than the remainder of the population largely because of the predominance of women among them. * All old persons, however, were to be found in the lower income groups more frequently than the rest of the population, whether they lived by themselves or with others. (59).

Despite this fact the proportion of householders among old persons was high. 76% were either householders themselves or the wives of householders. ** The proportion of old persons who were householders decreased with advancing age, however, from 82% at age 60-64 to 60% at 80 and over. A slightly higher proportion of men in employment than of men not in employment were householders, 85% compared with 75%. Among the women, however, those who were single and in employment were more frequently dependent on others for their accommodation than any other group, since only 48% were householders, compared with 61% of single women who were not in employment. The proportion of householders was lower in London than in any other Region, 58% being householders, compared with the average of 76%. (60).

It has been shown that 24% of old persons lived with others, since 76% were householders. It has been shown also that 38% of old persons lived alone or with other old persons. It follows, therefore, that another 38% of old persons were householders with others under 60 years of age living with them. In other worlds, more old persons had younger persons living with them than lived with younger persons.

All old people, whether householders or not, were asked whether they made any payment for their accommodation. *** 90% did so. They were asked how much they paid for their accommodation. More than half of those who answered the question paid less than 10/- weekly, but nearly a quarter could not or would not answer the question. (61). This incomplete response makes it difficult for groups to be compared, but an analysis by age, (an analysis which is not greatly affected by the different proportions who answered the question), indicates that up to the age of 79 there was a steady increase in the proportion of old persons who paid 10/- or less for their accommodation. At 60-64 years of age 40% paid 10/- or less, while at 75-79 52% paid 10/- or less. There would appear to be some slight adjustment of rent with increasing years, therefore, an adjustment which occurs mainly at 70 and over, and may be a response to ceasing work or changed and inferior accommodation.

Since payment for accommodation could include food as well as rent all persons aged 60 and over who paid for their accommodation were asked whether their payment included full or partial board. The question also served to indicate what proportion of old persons lived with a family, whether their own or another’s, roughly in the position of a paying guest. 9% of all old persons who paid for their accommodation received full board and only 1% received partial board. There were no difference between men and women but there was a steady increase in the proportions in successive age groups who received full board. At 60-64 only 5% received full board, but at 80 and over 24% did so. (62).

The preceding paragraph has shown that 7% of all old persons, (including those who did not pay for their accommodation), received full or partial board as well as accommodation. If it can be assumed that the 10% who did not pay for accommodation were similarly provided for this means that 83% of old persons did their own cooking or assisted in the preparation of their own food. It has been suggested frequently in the past by interested bodies that the most unfortunate consequences of this are to be found among old persons living alone, either because of lack of facilities or incapacity for cooking. All old persons who lived alone were, therefore, asked whether they did their own cooking. 95% of them did so. 97% of the women did their own cooking but so did 82% of the men. Of all persons who did their own cooking nine out of ten had proper cooking facilities - that is a gas or electric stove or a coal range in working order. An analysis by economic group showed that nine-tenths of old person without proper cooking facilities were in the lowest economic group and not in employment.

So far this section has dealt with the units in which old persons lived, their tenancies, the payments they made for accommodation and the cooking facilities of those who lived alone, and only indirectly with the types of accommodation they lived in and the amenities attached to them. In the following paragraphs old persons are dealt with entirely as households, or part of households, and their accommodation described in that sense.

Altogether, 85% of old persons lived in the whole of a dwelling, and 15% in part of a dwelling. An analysis by the type of unit in which old persons lived shows that old persons living alone most frequently lived in part of a house. 39% did so compared with 15% of households of two old persons living together and 9% of mixed households of old persons and others. 16% of households with no old persons in them occupied part only of a dwelling. Presumably the old persons living along who had no proper cooking facilities were to be found among the 39% who occupied only part of a dwelling.

Despite the high proportion of solitary old persons living in rooms, however, the average number of rooms occupied by households with old persons in them was a fraction higher than the average number of rooms occupied by households with no old persons in them. The figures are, 4.4 rooms compared with 4.2 rooms, although the average number of persons in households with old persons in them is 3.12 compared with 3.84 persons in households with no old persons in them.

An analysis by the two types of unit in which old people lived that is, alone or with other old persons, shows that solitary old persons had an average of three rooms for their personal use, and that households of two or more old persons had an average of 4.1 rooms for their sole use. Furthermore, only 16% of solitary old persons, and only 1% of households of two or more old persons, were confined to one room. Thus the living space of old persons was more than adequate by normal standards, although these figures do not indicate in any way the conditions of the rooms.

The majority of householders in England and Wales live in terraced houses and, in this, households with old persons in them did not differ from other households. 40% of the populations lived in detached and semi-detached houses, however, since the greater part of them were built at a later date than the terraced houses, and their condition can therefore be expected to be better than that of terraced houses, it is of interest that 40% of old persons’ households were also to be found in detached and semi-detached houses. The proportion of old persons living in special types of dwelling, such as almshouses, was low, less than 1% of old persons doing so.

It has been suggested that detached and semi-detached houses were built at a later date than terraced houses, and it is shown that equal proportions of households with old persons in them and households without old persons in them lived in these types of house. An analysis by age of house shows, however, that a somewhat greater proportion of old person households than of other households lived in houses built before 1914. (65). It would seem therefore, that older persons were to be found more frequently in the detached and semi-detached houses built in the years preceding the 1914-1918 war than in similar houses built after that date.

The age of the house in which households reside was associated in a marked manner with the economic group of the household. The proportion of households living in post - 1918 houses increased rapidly from one economic group to the next. Of households with no old people in them 22% in the lowest economic group lived in houses of that date, compared with 52% in the highest economic group. Similarly, in the case of households with old people in than, 17% of those in the lowest economic group lived in houses built after 1918, compared with 38% in the upper economic groups. It is apparent from these figures, however, that economic position was not the only factor involved, since the increased opportunity to obtain a new house which comes from superior economic circumstances was taken more frequently by households without old persons in them than by households with old persons in them. Nevertheless this may only be a reflection of the greater extent to which people in the upper economic groups were able to establish a separate home on marriage.

The provision of kitchen , bathroom and garden, is some indication of housing standards. In general it would appear that, solitary old persons apart, there were no differences between households with old persons in them and households without old persons in them. Of all households in England and Wales 90% had a kitchen and 6% shared a kitchen with another household, 44% had a bathroom and 6% shared a bathroom, 64% had a garden and 8% shared a garden. In all three respects solitary old people less frequently had these amenities, the difference averaging about 20%. (66). (67). (68).

These analyses lead to the conclusion that the majority of old persons, whether living alone or with others, are, although poor, housed no worse than the rest of the population so far as space and such amenities as bathrooms and gardens are concerned. Old persons living alone, principally women, are, however, not only poorer than others but also lack the amenities, since a greater proportion occupy a room or rooms only.

[14] Table 62.

[15] A householder was defined as a person renting or owning a separately rated dwelling.

[16] Rates were considered to be a payment, as well as rent and payments on a mortgage.

Summary of Conclusions

In all analyses it is apparent that there was an association between the sources of income of old people and whether or not they were in employment. This is true both of pensioners and non-pensioners. Those who were not working had pensions other than State pensions, and sources of income such as investments and property, more frequently than those who were in employment. Thus, only a fraction of those receiving superannuation were in employment, compared with a quarter of those

receiving a State pension. Again, old persons who were not in employment placed a considerable burden on their children, as is shown by the high proportion who referred to allowances from children living away from home, or the employment of children living at home, as other sources of income, and it may be that in order to mitigate that burden many old persons or married couples lived alone, and so become eligible for a Supplementary Pension.

It is possible that more generous pensions to old persons, comparable to the amount received under Superannuation schemes, would mean that many would withdraw from employment. On the other hand, if jobs were adapted to their requirements, readiness to work, because of loneliness at home and the inevitable lowering of standards of living which a pension brings about, may tend to cancel out this effect.

Old persons live in small units to a greater extent than the rest of the population, and the average number of rooms occupied by households with old persons in them was greater than the average number of rooms occupied by households with no old persons in then. Thus, old persons had, on the average, more than sufficient living space, and in view of the suggestion made above, that old persons often lived alone for financial reasons, it is possible that not only old persons but those in need of houses were affected by the restrictions attaching to some forms of pension.

It can be concluded that the majority of old people, whether living alone or with others, were, although poor, housed no worse than the rest of the population so far as such amenities as bathrooms and gardens were concerned. Old persons living alone, principally women, were not only poorer than others, however, but less often had those amenities, since a greater proportion occupied a room or rooms only.

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