Women, other "fresh” workers, and the new manufacturing workforce of interwar Britain
Scott, P. (2000) Women, other "fresh” workers, and the new manufacturing workforce of interwar Britain. International Review of Social History, 45 (3). pp. 449-474. ISSN 1469-512X
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Structural, organizational, and technological changes in British industry during the interwar years led to a decline in skilled and physically demanding work, while there was a dramatic expansion in unskilled and semiskilled employment. Previous authors have noted that the new un/semiskilled jobs were generally filled by “fresh” workers recruited from outside the core manufacturing workforce, though there is considerable disagreement regarding the composition of this new workforce. This paper examines labour recruitment patterns and strategies using national data and case studies of eight rapidly expanding industrial centres. The new industrial workforce is shown to have been recruited from a “reserve army” of workers with the common features of relative cheapness, flexibility, and weak unionization. These included women, juveniles, local workers in poorly paid nonindustrial sectors, such as agriculture, and (where these other categories were in short supply) relatively young long-distance internal migrants from declining industrial areas.