A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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What do women think about being tied to their employers under the Essential Work Order? Does this militate against recruitment, or does it help by producing a feeling of greater stabilisation of employment? Do women appreciate that release may be granted if their domestic circumstances change?

Is there any feeling that other things are militating against the recruitment of women, e.g. any feeling that there is differentiation against married women in some of the insurance schemes? Or in income tax?

In order to answer this question, it was necessary to find out what significance the items mentioned have in relation to other difficulties which hinder women from doing war work, or at least make it very difficult for them.

Question asked: Would you mark which are the difficulties which you experience in doing full-time work, or which hinder your entering it. Housework - Shopping - Care of husband - Care of children - Paying of income tax - The nature of factory work - Transport facilities - Your health - Restrictions on changing your job.

The difficulties mentioned are in order of their significance:-

No. % Rank
Care of children 1247 55 1
Care of husband 894 40 2
Housework 722 32 3
Shopping 686 30 4
Health 642 29 5
Nature of factory work 223 10 6
Transport facilities 102 5 7
Restriction on changing jobs 69 3 8
Paying of income tax 42 2 9

Care of children is the most important difficulty for women with children under 14; for those without children under 14, health takes it place.

In these two groups the relative importance of the other different difficulties also varies:-

Women with children under 14 Women without children under 14
Rank Rank
Care of children 1 6
Care of husband 2 2
Housework 3 4
Shopping 4 3
Health 5 1
Nature of factory work 6 5
Transport facilities 7 7
Restrictions on changing jobs 8 8
Paying of income tax 9 9

Care of children is the most important difficulty for women with children under 14; for those without children under 14, health takes its place. For both groups the care of husbands is the second most important hindrance. The third and fourth places are taken by shopping and housework. The nature of factory work takes the 5th or 6th place. In both groups the restriction on changing jobs takes 8th place, and the paying of income tax the 9th place.

The question of insurance did not come up once. In the pilot questionnaire a direct question was asked, but as women did not understand it it was omitted in the final questionnaire. It was thought if this problem were of any importance, it would come up in the general question under “others”. As it was not mentioned once, it may be safely assumed that it is without any importance.

The different age and class groups find the same difficulties in the same order.

Comparing the working woman’s difficulties with those the woman not working expects, the following differences can be seen:-

Women working Rank Women not working Rank
Care of children 4 1
Care of husband 5 2
Housework 3 3
Shopping 2 4
Health 1 5
Nature of factory work 6 6
Transport facilities 7 7
Restriction on changing jobs 9 8
Paying of income tax 8 9

The restriction on changing jobs and income tax are still the least important factors. Transport still occupies the 7th place, and the nature of factory work the 6th. Shopping is a much greater difficulty for the working woman than for the woman not working. Health is the most serious drawback for the working woman, whereas difficulties with children and husband have gone somewhat into the background.

So far as “restrictions on changing job” are mentioned, women do not realise that release may be granted if domestic circumstances change, and a number of remarks like this were made:-

“If my husband was moved to another town and I was on war work, would they let me go with him?”

Care of children is considered such an important difficulty that it seemed worth while to collect some further evidence on the attitude of mothers towards nursery schools and school meals.

Questions asked:-

For mothers of children under five. Would you use a day nursery if one were open near your home? If you have any doubt about using them, what are they? For mothers of schoolchildren. Would you use play centres provided so that your children would be cared for after school? Do your children take schools meals? If your children don’t take them, why not?

40% of the mothers of children under 5 said they would send their children to a day nursery if one were near their home. Class differences exist, in that 50% of the working class mothers said they would send their children to a day nursery, and only 30% of the middle class mothers.

The women who are not prepared to send their children to a nursery school give the following reasons. The following table shows them in the sequence of their importance.

No. %
Would rather bring children up individually 154 35
Would worry about leaving the child with strangers 62 14
Not suitable for young babies 55 13
Mother does not know how child would react 41 9
Is afraid that school might not be run by trained people 31 7
Afraid child might get infectious disease 28 6
Social reasons, child might learn bad habits from others 15 3
Like to know what baby eats 8 2
Difficulty of taking and fetching child. 10 2

The last difficulty mentioned might well prove to be more important in reality than it appears here.

The same reasons are given by the different class groups; but the A and B class is more afraid of their children getting infectious diseases than the C and D, and the latter group is more afraid of their children being with strangers.

In answer to the question on whether mothers would send their children to a play centre, 51% replied in the affirmative, and 49% in the negative. Class difference exists in the same direction and to the same extent as on the question of nursery schools; the C and D class are more enthusiastic than the A and B class.

Only 15% of the school children in the sample take school meals, the children of the A and B class actually taking them more often (26%) than the children of the C and D class (12%).

The reason why school meals are not taken is, in 25% of the cases, that school-meals are not provided. The C and D class children are in this respect worse off than A and B children. The other main reasons are that the mother thinks it is not necessary for the child to take them, as it lives near enough, the mother cooks in any case, and the mother wants company. For 6% the school meals are too expensive; 5% think the school meals are not adequately cooked and the children don’t get enough nutrients; and 4% don’t take them because the mothers think their children difficult eaters. With the exception of the factor of expense, no class differences are visible.

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