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The Manpower Budget

The effective limitation on the expansion of Great Britain's mili­tary contribution in the last two years of the war was the scarcity of manpower. Manpower from July 1943 "had become an almost continuous preoccupation of the War Cabinet" and manpower budgets, by the end of the war, "were the main force in determining every part of the war effort, from the numbers of R.A.F. heavy bombers raiding Germany to the size of the clothing ration".1 It was only natural then in 1947, when the scarcity of labour again appeared to be setting the limit to Britain's capacity to produce, that the manpower budget should have pride of place in the plans which were drawn up to overcome the effects of the shortages to which the first Economic Surwy had pointed. The supply of labour at any given time is controlled by the num­bers of men and women of working age, a group generally conceded to include all those above fifteen, now the usual age for leaving primary school. Not all those of an age to work are willing to do so. Some, the elderly, will have retired. Others, being in secondary schools, universities and other full-time educational institutions will not yet have begun their working life. There are, in addition, the few genuinely unoccupied having neither necessity for nor inclina-tion to gainful employment and, most important of all, the women, married and unmarried, who seek no occupation other than the care of their families and their homes. The balance is the working popula­tion, being the sum of those who, whether in employment or not, are able and willing to work. The total population of Great Britain,2 enumerated in the Census, was 51^ millions in 1951. Males, 15 and over, numbered 18,565,000 and females 20,738,000. The working population in the same year, estimated by the Ministry of Labour as the numbers of those either in work or able and willing to work was put at 23^ millions— 15-9 million men and 7-4 million women. The Philips Report has sińce provided for 1954 an estimate of the occupied in the principal age-groups and hence, by difference, of the unoccupied. Of 500,000 males over 15 but under 44 and shown as unoccupied, at least 250,000 can be supposed to be boys and youths spending all their time in secondary schools, universities and other educational institu­tions; and of unoccupied men over 65, a large proportion must have 1 Hancock and Gowing: British War Economy, Chapter XV, pp. 438, 449 and 452. 2 That is, England, Scotland and Wales. economic planning in great britain been over 70 and getting well past the age of useful work. The Census of 1951 enumerated 707,000 males 70 years of age and over. table 3 Estimated Population 1954—Great Britain 000,000'j Age Group Total Population Working Population Unoccupied (by difference) Men Women Men Women Men Women 0-14 . . 15-44 . . 45-64 . . 45-59 . . 65+ . . 60+ . . 5-70 10-36 5-73 2-23 5-46 10-40 509 4-66 9-84 5-38 •68 5-17 1-85 •39 5-70 0-52 0-35 1-57 5-46 5-23 3-24 4-27 All ages 24 02 25-69 812 18-28 Over 15 18-32 20-23 15-90 7-41 2-42 12-82 Report of the Committee on the Economic and Financial Problems of the Provision for Old Age, Cmd. 9333 (Philips Report). Tables VII and VIII. Statistical Abstract. (Last Line.) There were, in 1954 it appears, 350,000 males between 44 and 64 not gainfully occupied and another 250,000 possibly between 15 and 44 —no more than 600,000 all told in the active years (and this figurę includes all the physically incapacitated) not already in work, seeking work or still continuing with their education. Not many men, clearly, not more than a very few hundreds of thousands at the most, other than the retired, the pensioners and the unemployed (less than 300,000 in December 1946) could have been looked for in 1947 as an addition to the labour force. The only source of any substantial accretion from inside Great Britain, as was made so elear during the war, is by reeruitment of the housewives. There are 16,000,000 women aged 15 to 60 in all, and 7,400,000 in the so-called working population. On the statistics, therefore, something less than half the women of working age can be "working" in the sense of seeking paid employment outside their homes. It is perhaps no wonder that men, faced with a scarcity of manpower, should always think of drawing on this apparently rich reserve of woman-power! None of these later statistics were available in 1947. The Ministry of Labour, when they came to prepare their estimates of working population for the manpower budgets of 1947, had access to no such recent and comprehensive enumerations as those which have sińce been provided by the Census of Population, 1951, and the returns of the insured under the National Insurance Act of 1946. They had to rely on a census taken sixteen years earlier, in 1931, and upon estimates of the population insured under the old and much less comprehensive health and unemployment insurance schemes. The forecast of the working population assumed in the manpower budget of 1947—18,300,000 men and women—was almost certainly too Iow. The working population estimated a year later, in 1948, under the new scheme of national insurance—21,700,000 men and women—suggests that the estimate of 1947 may have under-stated the total by two or three millions. The principal part of the deficiency was found not among manuał workers, all of whom were insured under the old schemes, but in the numbers assumed for the self-employed and salaried persons earning more than £420 per annum, the limit of eligibility to insurance in the old scheme. The difference, while not invalidating the redistribution of labour sug-gested by the manpower budgets, was undoubtedly large, particu­larly when measured against the hundred thousand which, as it turned out, was all the addition to the working population that could be hoped for as a result of our best endeavours. Manpower budgets are framed, inevitably, on the presumption that not much can be done to increase the available supplies of labour. There is no prospect of substantial increase in the popula­tion—itself necessarily a long-term remedy and one not susceptible to the machinations of planners. The number of youths and girls entering industry for the first time might be increased, for example, by lowering the school-leaving age. Older men and women can be invited to stay in employment after the retiring age; married women and other "unoccupied" persons can be induced to work in factories and elsewhere and foreign labour can be brought in from abroad. A delay in the raising of the school-leaving age by "a few months", it was noted in 1947, might have added 160,000 juveniles to the labour force—-but only at the cost of sacrificing the long-term interests of the children and of the nation in their education. This cost Government were not prepared to impose. Married women generally have a full-time job already in their households and unless they have already formed, or been brought up in, the habit of out­side employment, can free themselves very often only for a part of the normal day or week; not always an easy thing to arrange in a factory. The terms on which old people are prepared to remain at their employment are by no means fully understood1 and the number of foreigners who can be introduced into a British community turns out to be disappointingly smali. The "unoccupied" and those not engaged in essential employment, who would, it was hoped, be gathered into more useful work as a result of the industrial registra-tion undertaken after reimposing the Control of Engagement Order in August 1947, were surprisingly few. Only 70,780 people were registered in these categories and of those, only 1,692 were placed in work of national importance.2 All in all, even during the days when the shortage of manpower was thought to be most acute, no more than 100,000 new recruits were expected from all these sources combined as an addition to the current estimate in 1947, of 18,300,000 persons in civil employment. There were, it is true, the unemployed. The loss of their labour was put at the equivalent of 120,000 men through the year;3 but that was a contribution which, owing to its immobility, could be used only in the develop-ment areas where the unemployed were principally to be found. If the labour force itself in 1947 and after could not be significantly enlarged, the output of certain industries—those industries which had been classed as essential—had nevertheless to be increased. Employment in coal mining, for example, in agriculture, textiles, metals and engineering, all had to be expanded if the plans outlined in the Surveys were to be carried out. Some of the expansion might be provided from the ranks of the unemployed, if they could be persuaded to move; and another part by the 100,000 new entrants whom it was hoped to add to the working population. But the numbers needed to bring the undermanned trades marked for ex-pansion up to the planned strength greatly exceeded the largest numbers which could be recruited from the unemployed and the previously unoccupied. The Survey for 1948 looked, for example, for an increase of 400,000 men and women as the minimum reąuired to bring production in the essential industries up to the levels of output assumed by the plans. In the then condition of the British economy, an increase of this magnitude in the numbers employed in one group of trades could be got only by transfer from all other trades. The manpower budget in effect planned a redistri-bution of the available labour force. Building and contracting, building materials, Government service, distribution, clothing and 1 Shenfield, Barbara. Problem of Old Age (Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1956). 2 Ministry of Labour Gazette, 1948, pp. 49 and 86. 3 Cmd. 7046, para. 123. food, drink and tobacco were selected as the victims. These less essential and therefore overmanned trades were expected in gross to yield 300,000 workers; and this number, together with 100,000 of the unoccupied and the unemployed combined, made up the 400,000 to be recruited into the essential but undermanned trades. These estimates of manpower and the budget of which they formed a part were presented, rashly as it turned out, as targets in the fuli sense, being the labour force "believed to be reąuired to reach specific objectives in the set of output and export targets decided for 1948. The attainment of these manpower targets is among the first necessities of 1948." 1 Some change in fact was brought about during the year but on a much smaller scalę; and some of the changes were in a direction ąuite opposite to those contemplated by the (manpower) budget. Mining, for example, increased by 8,000 but not by the 52,000 set up as the target; textiles by 38,000 instead of the planned 108,000. Employment in agriculture, rising by 46,000, came closest to the buli. Worse than these failures, however, was the fact that distribution, which should have been reduced by 31,000, was actually increased by 55,000; and local government services, expected to yield 31,000 for transfer elsewhere, was found at the end of the year to have expanded by no less than 70,000! Employment in building and civil engineering, relied upon as the most fertile source of labour for transfer, was reduced, it is true, but by 7,000 only, instead of the 164,000 reąuired by the manpower budget.2 Translated into plans for action, a budget means that each claimant can draw on the supply of resources up to the amount of his allowance, no more and no less; and that the available supplies go or are sent to those to whom they have been allotted. This system can be made to work well enough when the resources in ąuestion are inanimate or, at least, not human. But "manpower" cannot be allocated in this way unless men and women are subjected to direc­tion. The allocating authority in a free society cannot execute by fiat the distribution of scarce labour prescribed in a manpower budget. To do that, they must have the right to direct workers into the em­ployment of those to whom the allocations (of manpower) have been made and the right also, to reąuire workers to leave the employ­ment of those whose claims had not been included in the finał deter-mination of the budget. The Coalition Government had had these powers during the war, though even then they were used with 1 Economic Surwyfor 1948, Cmd. 7344, p. 41. 2 Economic Suney for 1949, Cmd. 7647, Table 18. circumspection.1 The Labour Government resumed this authority when, in the summer of 1947, it appeared that the rising shortage of labour was going to interfere seriously with economic and industrial plans. Direction was reimposed in August 1947, by the Control of Engagement Order; and withdrawn in March 1950. But during those thirty-two months, Government had authority to direct men and women into jobs chosen by the Ministry of Labour; and authority, too, to reąuire men and women in certain "essential" industries (specifically, agriculture and coal-mining) not to leave their employ­ment without permission from the Ministry of Labour. The intro-duction in peacetime of a measure capable of depriving citizens of the right to choose their own jobs (and indeed of the right to choose whether they will work or not) was a serious step to take in a democracy priding itself upon an unusually large degree of personal freedom and the Control of Engagement Order was criticised on that score at the time. But it soon became elear that neither the Minister of Labour nor his officials in the regions and the local employment exchanges proposed any drastic or extensive use of the Order, except possibly to forbid coal miners from leaving the pits and agricultural labourers the land. Even within this limited field the Order was hardly a success. No action was taken to stop the turnover of labour within mining and agriculture. The Ministry of Labour, indeed, defended in this respect the greater freedom from direction of miners and farm workers compared with the liability of those outside these two oceupations to remain in their particular job if they should be so directed. But the National Coal Board, one of the principal beneficiaries, did not welcome the Order. They believed that the "ring fence" which the Order had erected round the coal industry was keeping some men in the pits whom the Board did not want. Worse still, in their opinion, it was keeping some good men out because of the fear that, once a miner, a man would not be allowed to leave; and they soon advised the Government that the prohibition should be removed.2 A number of people, fear-ful of the possibility of direction, may have "voluntarily" entered employment and others, similarly stimulated, may have been moved to accept jobs suggested by local officers of the Ministry of Labour. 1 See, for example, the Minutę of lOth March 1945, addressed by Sir Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin), commenting, with characteristic vigour, on a proposed use after the defeat of Germany, of the power to direct labour. Winston S. Churchill: Second World War, Vol. VI, Triumph and Tragedy, Cassell, 1954, p. 628. 2 National Coal Board: Report and Accounts for 1949, p. 74, Sec. 279. Some people, on the other hand, must certainly have been dis-couraged from entering essential work lest they subsequently be prevented from leaving. The Order, it was claimed, had enabled employment exchange officers to "guide" large numbers of "willing" workers into essential employment without the exercise of any overt compulsion. The Parliamentary Secretary explained to the House that "any man—or woman—who is unemployed is offered the choice of four jobs . . . he can refuse the first, second and third and, if he does not take the fourth, he is directed. He then has a right to appeal to the appeals tribunal."1 Labour, if it cannot be ordered away from the less essential em-ployments and into the more essential, might nevertheless have been induced to move by a set of wage and other differentials arranged so as to increase the attractiveness of the more essential employment and to diminish the attractiveness of the less. Not much, unfortun-ately, is known about the importance which is attached to the actual money wages compared with all the other considerations which a worker takes into account when assessing the relative advantages of this employment compared with that. Transfer between industries, too, may mean migration from one part of the country to another; and the costs of movement, personal, social and economic (together with an allowance to overcome the difficulty which would have been met, particularly in 1947, 1948 and 1949—the days of the manpower budgets—of getting a house close to one's new place of work), would all have to be added into the account when arriving at the difference to be established between wages in the two classes of occupations. Some wages, certainly those in the essential but under-manned trades, would have had to rise. That rise would have con-flicted with the policy of stabilising wages, costs and prices which was being maintained (until 1948) as one means of containing infla­tion. It might, for example, have led to a rise in the cost of living unless, of course, some other wages, those for example in the inessential but overmanned trades, could have been brought down sufficiently to hołd the average of all wages reasonably steady. Even without this alarming conseąuence, well organised bodies of workers would have found ample cause to object to a policy which, by raising wages generally in the essential trades compared with the inessential, would have disturbed profoundly the traditional and hallowed rela-tionships which have been set up between the wage rates paid for one grade of skill and another, and between the rates of one industry and another. 1 463 H.C. 568-705. Economic Survey for 1948, Cmd. 7344, Sec. 186 and 196. For these reasons and others, the framing of a wage policy de-signed to bring about those changes in the distribution of labour laid out in the manpower budget, would have presented a formidable problem. The task of administering such a policy could have been no less difficult. In fact, the attempt was never made. Government, of set purpose, withheld this weapon from the armoury of the planners. The Coalition Govcrnment, it may be recalled, had left the responsibility for the determination of wages to the traditional and voluntary machinery of collective bargaining, and to the statu-tory but independent wages councils where these had been estab­lished. Voluntary organisations and wage tribunals had been left free to reach their decisions and "in accordance with their estimates of the relevant facts".1 That policy remained unchangcd. Assess-ments were issued from time to time of the generał wage changes, or rather lack of change, which the times demanded.2 These recom-mendations were not issued as directions nor as instructions to those taking part in wage negotiations. They were, at most, subsumed under "the relevant facts", which negotiators were invited to consider. In one respect only did Government depart from the principle of volun-tary wage agreements freely reached by the parties. The Conditions of Employment Order (No. 1305) had prohibited strikes and lock-outs and set up a National Arbitration Tribunal, empowered to hear disputes and to make decisions which were binding on the parties. The Order, issued in 1940 after Dunkirk, was not repealed till August 1951. But only a minority of disputes were referred to the Tribunal and, as two authorities have remarked, "an analysis of its awards shows no direct effect of the White Paper on Personal In-comes, Costs and Prices".3 Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the House on the Survey for 1948, had this to say about the limitations of planning by redistribution of labour. I would warn the Committee against the danger of developing plans which have no real relation to the actual facts of our present situation. Many such proposals have been put forward by arm-chair critics which would involve the movement of many hundreds of thousands of workers and their retraining in new skills, the use of raw materials which we can­not obtain and of capacity which does not exist and cannot be created. We are dealing primarily with production by human beings and they 1 Cmd. 6294. 2 See, for example, Cmd. 7321, Statement on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices, 1947. 3 E. H. P. Brown and B. C. Roberts: Lloyds Bank Review, Jan. 1952, p. 27. cannot and must not be dealt with as though they were pieces of machin­ery. We have to plan within the restrictions imposed by human habit and custom as well as by raw materials and .machinę capacity.1 It would be unjust to the framers of the manpower budgets of 1948 to suggest that they had drawn up their plans for the re-distribution of labour between the essential and the inessential trades without regard to raw materials supplies and machinę capacity. But it is quite evident that, as the Chancellor noted, human habit and custom were strong, too strong indeed, even for the few hundred thousand set up as targets in the Survey to be got from the over-manned into the undermanned trades. Seven hundred directions, more or less, were issued during the currency of the Control of Engagement Order. The majority of these reąuired men to remain at their jobs in coal mining and agriculture. Twenty-nine persons were directed to take up new employment.2 Out of respect for democratic liberties no less than human habit and custom, labour was not ordered into those employments accepted as essential, and, for lack of an efficient wage policy, could not be attracted away from employments meeting reąuirements deemed of lesser importance. The redistribution of labour reąuired by the manpower budgets could not be carried through; and if the alloca­tions of labour could not be made, the output and particularly the expansions in the output of industries considered essential to the fulfilment of the plans could not be brought about. The budget itself became an academic exercise, the allocations of manpower a set of targets which were missed and the whole business of planning was brought into ridicule and disrepute.