A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

15 16


How many women are prepared to take war work either whole-time or part-time? Have those, who are prepared to take work, done anything concrete to obtain it? Do women in the non-registration age group, who come to offer their services voluntarily, feel they are well received at the exchanges and that everything is done to place them in employment (having regard to the local employment position if they are volunterring for local work only)?

Qurstions asked: Would you be willing to undertake war work? Whole time, or part time? (If conditional). Under which conditions? Have you ever tried to obtain wartime work? Part time or whole time? What happened?

9% declared themselves prepared to do whole-time work and 38% were prepared to undertake part-time work if it were available.

Yes No Sample Yes No Sample
% % % %
Up to 30 15 85 505 43 57 404
31 - 36 6 94 430 34 66 430
37 - 50 7 93 897 42 58 886
Total 9 91 1832 38 62 1820

A little more than 40% of the older women are prepared to undertake part time work.

More women without children under 14 are prepared to volunteer for war work than women with children under 14, although there is not a striking difference.

Yes No Sample Yes No Sample
% % % %
Housewives with children under 14 6 94 1210 37 63 1213
Housewives without children under 14 12 88 611 42 58 612

(In reading the next two tables it must be remembered that not all these women who said that they would be prepared to do wartime work qualified their statement by mentioning conditions).

The conditions which women would like to see fulfilled before undertaking work are as follows:-

Conditions for Whole Time Work
With children under 14
Without children under 14
If children could be looked after; arrangements made for home, family, etc. 71 25
Depending on working conditions 20 61
Health permitting 3 7
Willing if necessary, but not very keen, or must get husband’s permission 6 7
Sample 49 44

For women with children under 14 the problem of looking after the children is in the foreground. For the women who have no young children this problem is of secondary importance, and the most important problem is that of working conditions.

Conditions for Part Time Work
With children under 14
Without children under 14
If children can be looked after; arrangements made for home 47 23
Depending on working conditions, hours, pay, locality 33 47
Health permitting 9 18
Willing if necessary, not too keen, have to get husband’s permission 11 11
Sample 336 188

The stipulation that the children will have to be looked after is still the most frequent. That of working conditions has gained in importance with mothers of children under 14, but has become less important to women without children under 14. In both groups the health argument has become more frequent, and also the admission that one would only do the work if absolutely necessary.

It is a striking fact that health becomes a more important condition when excuses such as looking after children cannot very well be used any longer. This suggests that women may be consciously or unconsciously looking for excuses.

This rather negative attitude to the concrete aspect of doing war work does not mean that women do not in principle agree with its necessity. As will be shown later, the overwhelming majority is in favour of the existing compulsory regulations.

38% had declared themselves prepared to do part-time work, but am much smaller percentage (6%) had actually tried to obtain it. Of this 6%:-

1. 5% were working at the time of the investigation

2.0% had tried and not obtained any

0.7% are still waiting to hear

1.7% have given it up and no longer wish to take part-time work.

9% of the women in the sample had said they were prepared to do whole-time work, and 1.9% had tried to obtain it. Their experiences were:-

0.9% has tried and not got any

1.0% tried and still waiting to hear

The figure for those who had tried and had given up cannot be given here, as the question on this point was not answered correctly; women gave not only their wartime, but also their pre-war experiences.

The fact that the number of women who tried to obtain war work voluntarily is so small made it impossible to answer the second part of the question asked by the Ministry of Labour. The only results we have are occasional remarks based on hearsay, and it is impossible to evaluate their significance statistically or otherwise.

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