Essay on London: Unemployment and Labour Market Change

Submitted By anomaaba
Words: 8465
Pages: 34

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A century of labour market change: 1900 to 2000
By Craig Lindsay, Labour Market Division, Office for National Statistics

A century of labour market change: 1900 to 2000

Key points


A summary of labour market conditions in the twentieth century.

In 1900 the population was around 38 million and gross domestic product (GDP) stood at just under £125 billion at constant 1995 market prices. By the end of the century, the population had increased by 50 per cent to 59 million, and GDP had risen fivefold to £800 billion. ● The estimated employment rate for 15 to 64-year-olds in 1902 was around 69 per cent. Using Labour Force Survey data the employment rate in 2000 was 71 per cent. However, this comparison is affected by changes in the school leaving age and retirement age. ● The unemployment rate, as measured by those claiming unemployment-related benefit, was below 5 per cent in 1900. It was at its highest point in 1932, at 22 per cent but by the end of the century, it was below 5 per cent again. ● One major change was the shift in industrial composition. In the UK, manufacturing’s share fell from 28 to 14 per cent of employment, and agriculture’s share from 11 to 2 per cent. ● At the beginning of the twentieth century, around five million women worked, making up 29 per cent of the total workforce. By 2000, the figure had risen to 13 million, 46 per cent of the total workforce. ● The average weekly hours of a manual worker fell from 53 hours in 1943 to 43.5 in 1987. ● In 1900 trade union membership represented 11 per cent of those in employment. It peaked in the late 1970s at 50 per cent but by 2000 was down to under 29 per cent, its lowest level for 60 years. ● The level of full-time earnings has soared from an average £1.40 per week in 1902 (not adjusted for inflation) to £350 per week in 1997.

Introduction
THE AIM of this article is to provide an overview of labour market change through the twentieth century, and its links to major events and to social change more generally. ONS already produces a range of articles looking at general labour market conditions: the monthly Labour Market Assessment (see pp103-6) looks at the current labour market situation using the latest data; the annual ‘State of the Labour Market’ pieces (of which the first was published on the National Statistics website www.statistics.gov.uk last year) look at change over the course of a year. By comparison, this article aims to take a step back and to examine longer-term trends. In 1900, Britain was coming to the end of the Victorian age, a period that had seen the country at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of Empire. Government intervention was light, and the economy had developed largely based upon the free market liberal heritage of Adam Smith (1723-90), and of Cobden (180465) and Bright (1811-89). As late as 1874, both Disraeli (Prime Minister: 1868-68 and 1874-80) and Gladstone (Prime Minister: 1868-74, 1880-85, 1886-94) had gone into the general election promising to repeal income tax (although during their different times in office neither did). The nineteenth century had seen politics dominated by the Tory and Whig groupings, and then by their successor parties, the

March 2003

Labour Market trends 133

Special feature

A century of labour market change: 1900 to 2000

A century of labour market change: 1900 to 2000

Conservatives and Liberals respectively. However, the beginnings of change were evident. The Industrial Revolution, as well as bringing increased wealth and higher living standards, had seen the emergence of the working class and the first disciples of Marxism. In 1900 the population was around 38 million1 and gross domestic product (GDP) stood at just under £125 billion2 at constant 1995 market prices. The economy was more notably based upon trade and manufacturing: manufacturing represented 28 per cent of output; agriculture, forestry and fishing 11 per cent;…