A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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It is estimated that during the reconstruction period the Civil Service will require over 2,000 recruits to its Excutive Class and over 20,000 to its Clerical Class. Recruits to the two classes respectively were 301 and 4,583 in 1938, and 429 and 5,538 in 1939. It is clear therefore that many new recruits will be needed and a campaign is being organised for this purpose.

The Central Office of Information is responsible for the publicity material used in this campaign, and it was thought by the Treasury and by the Central Office of Information that the Social Survey could produce by field inquiries information which would be of use in devising the campaign. The object of these enquiries would be to show what were the attitudes of particular groups in the population towards taking work in the Civil Service, and to find out how much people knew about the conditions of work in the Service and what they thought about them.

As a result of discussions between the Treasury, Campaigns Division of the Central Office of Information and the Social Survey, it was decided that samples of the following groups of people should be interviewed with questionnaires designed to get the information required.

  1. (1) Technical and professional workers aged under thirty.

  2. (2) Clerical workers aged under thirty.

  3. (3) Children in the School Certificate and post - School Certificate forms of secondary schools.

  4. (4) The parents of such children.

  5. (5) Students at commercial and technical colleges.

  6. (6) Temporary Civil Servants.

This report gives the results of inquiries made amongst the first four groups mentioned above.

It was thought that young workers in technical and professional occupations would be likely to have the level of education recuired for entering the executive class of the Service. They represent the type of candidate required, and their views about the Civil Service are therefore of interest. Similarly clerical workers may be expected to have the sort of education required for the clerical class, and it would be useful to have information about their attitudes.

Recruits to these classes of the Civil Service have in the past been largely drawn from children in the higher forms of secondary (including “public”) schools, and the parents of such children would be likely to have considerable influence in their choice of a career. It was thus important to know not only what the schoolchildren thought about the Civil Service but also what their parents thought.

Accordingly representative samples of these groups were selected and interviewed. The methods by which the samples were selected are described in Appendix 1. More precise definitions of the groups, and some analyses of the samples obtained, are also given in this Appendix.

Section II of this report deals in a general way with the amount of importance attached to different aspects of earning a living, pay, working hours, holidays, the interest of the work, prospects and promotion, and security. An account of what careers school children wish and expect to take up is also given.

In Section III attitudes towards the Civil Service are considered. An attempt is made to show in what respects the Service comes up to and falls short of the standards of working conditions desired, in the opinions of those interviewed, and what are thought to be the advantages and disadvantages of the Civil Service as a career.

In section IV attitudes towards the service as revealed by answers to some further questions are discussed. The problems of leaving home to work in another town and of taking a competitive examination are also considered here.

The questionnaries used for the inquiries are given in Appendix 2.

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Informants in all the groups studied were asked to give their opinions about the various factors that are considered in choosing a career, and to grade each of seven selected factors as “very important”, “fairly important”, or “not so important”. The factors considered were pay, working hours, holidays, the interest of the work, prospects and promotion, security, and social relationships or activities connected with work.

The proportion grading the interest of the work as “very important” is in all groups in the neighbourhood of 90%, and this factor was considered to be very important by higher proportions than were other factors.

The proportions grading prospects and promotion as very important range from about 70% in the case of schoolgirls and female clerical workers to 85 to 90% in the case of technical and professional workers and male clerical workers.

Security is graded “very important” by about 60% of most groups, and is third in importance.

Pay, working hours, holidays and the social aspects of work were considered to be very important by somewhat lower proportions, in most cases by less than half.

In the case of pay there were marked differences between the views of different groups. 62% of male clerical workers thought pay very important as compared with 32% and 27% of schoolboys and schoolgirls respectively, the proportions for other groups falling between these extremes.

Female clerical workers attached rather more importance to working hours and holidays than did other groups.

The social side of the job was in general considered more important by women and girls than by men and boys.

Each of these factors was then considered with reference to the Civil Service, and informants were asked to say whether they thought the Civil Service was satisfactory or not in respect of each of them.

The proportions thinking the Civil Service satisfactory in respect of the interest of the work were in the region of 20% to 30%, similar proportions thinking this unsatisfactory, and the remainder saying they did not know enough about it to give an opinion, More of the technical and professional workers than of other groups thought work in the Civil Service to be lacking in interest.

Prospects and promotion were considered to be satisfactory by about 40% of the schoolchildren but by lower proportions of other groups. Over 40% of the technical and professional workers and of the male clerical workers considered this to be unsatisfactory. Again, fairly high proportions (30% to 45%) did not know enough to give an opinion.

The majority in all groups thought the Civil Service was satisfactory in respect of security , and only about 1% thought that this was unsatisfactory.

From 40% to 50% did not know enough about the rates of pay to express an opinion. The precentages answering “not satisfactory” with regard to pay range from 11% of schoolchildren to 28% of technical and professional workers.

Working hours and holidays were considered to be satisfactory by more than half in most cases, and only small proportions, generally less than 10%, considered them to be unsatisfactory.

Little was known about the social side of the work, more than half in all cases being unable to give an opinion.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Civil Service

Informants were asked to say what they thought were the main advantages and disadvantages of the Civil Service as a career.

The advantages mentioned most frequently were security and the pension scheme. The proportions mentioning security range from 32% in the case of female clerical workers to 68% in the case of fathers. The pension scheme was, mentioned by about 20% to 40% in different groups.

Good holidays, pay, and working hours were mentioned by somewhat lower proportions, 10% to 25%, and the prospects of promotion were mentioned by less than 20% in all cases.

On the other hand the first among the disadvantages mentioned, in order of frequency, were slow promotion, or the idea that promotion does not depend on merit, mentioned by 12% to 29%, and the idea that the work is dull or is nearly all routine work, mentioned by 10% to 34%.

Both of these disadvantages were mentioned more frequently by technical and professional workers, fathers and schoolboys, than by other groups, and the slowness of promotion was mentioned by a relatively high proportion of male clerical workers.

Other disadvantages mentioned were that the Civil Servant is too “regimented” and that there is insufficient scope for individual initiative (mentioned by 8% to 21% in different groups), that there is too much “red tape” and inefficiency (7% to 16%), that the pay is poor (5% to 15%), and that the Civil Servant is apt to “get into a rut” (4% to 14%). A few (less than 10%) mentioned the competitive entrance examination as a disadvantage.

The Careers Chosen by Schoolchildren

9% of the children interviewed expected to go into the Civil Service on leaving school, and 8% of the parents expected their children to do so.

23% of the children thought they would go in for teaching, 6% for engineering and 26% for other professions, scientific research and medicine being mentioned more frequently than others.

22% of the children did not know what careers they would take up. 5% expected to do clerical work and 3% to go into business.

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Attitudes to Leaving Home

There is a considerable amount of resistance to going to work away from home. About half the clerical workers interviewed thought that it was very important to have work in their home towns. The proportion of schoolchildren thinking this was somewhat lower, but parents did not in most cases approve of children leaving home when they started work. About 60% of parents thought that girls should not leave home and about 50% that boys should not.

A question about hostels that there would be somewhat less resistance if good hostels were provided, but there were still fairly high proportions unwilling to move even if hostels were provided.

Other Results

The results of other questions asked confirmed the information given above, and do not add very much to it. Answers to a question “Do you think the Civil Service appeals to a certain type of person” suggested that the Civil Servant is often regarded as someone rather lacking in enterprise and that it is not thought to be a suitable career for the more ambitious and adventurous type.

There was some feeling that Civil Servants are subject to restrictions as regards their personal lives, though no very clear idea seemed to exist as to what these restrictions were.

There is some evidence that the idea of the competitive examination is limiting the number of recruits and that this is unpopular.

It is clear that very little is known about work in the Civil Service and that information is wanted most about the types of job available and what openings there are.


  1. (1) Since the main criticisms of work in the Civil Service are that it lacks interest and that promotion is slow, it would be desirable for publicity to state quite clearly what sorts of jobs are available and what prospects there are for the individual to rise as a result of his own initiative. Some indication of the extent to which work in different branches is and is not mainly routine work is needed.

  2. (2) It is well known that security is an advantage of a career in the Civil Service, and it seems that little would be gained by emphasising this. The pension scheme is also fairly well known and appreciated.

  3. (3) The Civil Service is unlikely to attract the more adventurous type of recruit unless it can be shown that there is some scope for individual initiative, that Civil Servants are not less free than workers in other professions, and that there are other attractions of working in the Service besides security, good holidays and short working hours. The connection of the recruitment campaign with the carrying out of social reforms to be made in the reconstruction period could perhaps be stressed with advantage.

  4. (4) Information is needed about working conditions in the Service, pay, holidays and working hours, as very little is known about those.

  5. (5) It would be advantageous if publicity could deal with the anxiety felt by some “potential recruits” with regard to the competitive examination. It may well be that some of those who are deterred by the thought of taking an examination might prove desirable recruits.

  6. (6) The provision of hostels would to some extent combat reluctance on the part of possible recruits to leave home. But there is a certain amount of resistance to leaving home which probably cannot be overcome. For this reason it would be desirable to concentrate appeals for recruits in areas where work is available.

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