Sunday, 7 September 2014

Effects of the War on Employment

From the Glasgow Herald, 7 September 1914.

[Extracts from a much longer article on the effects on different sectors of industry in Glasgow.]





The tailoring trade has suffered to some extent, but the amount of unemployment among the operatives has not been so great as in some other industries.  In tailoring there are a number of firms who provide by Government contract clothing for the Army and Nary. As the supplies required by these Services this year are much larger than those of ordinary times, a good many firms who are not regularly on the Army and Navy lists have been given contracts.  This distribution of the work available has helped to minimise unemployment.  A good many substantial orders were cancelled on the outbreak of hostilities, but trade has improved within the past week or two, and orders are beginning to come to hand more freely.  ...

Large numbers of women workers are being thrown out of employment in the Glasgow shirt-making industry, and the majority of the factories are already on short time.  Several firms who have secured Government contracts will be able to keep their workers for some time, but otherwise the outlook is rather gloomy.  Some attention has been directed to the appeals which have been made to home work-parties for the provision of articles of clothing for soldiers at the front, and it has been pointed out to the organisations concerned that the making of these articles by voluntary workers may result in the taking of employment from women engaged in the factories, thus increasing unemployment.  The authorities concerned appreciate the danger of causing distress in this manner, but they are hopeful that it may be avoided.

...So far as can be ascertained the actual numbers thrown out of employment are not yet very large.  A considerable proportion of male clerks are members of the Territorial Force, and these of course were called up at the outbreak of hostilities.  The vacancies thus caused were open to other clerks whose employment was immediately affected by the war situation, but this self-readjustment has been by no means complete. With the view of pressing home some such general arrangement on public bodies the Glasgow and District Council of the National Union of Clerks, whose local membership numbers about 3000, have addressed a communication to the Corporation of Glasgow urging that they should fill temporarily all places rendered vacant by men called up for service rather than inaugurate a system of overtime by other members of their staffs.  Representations on similar lines have been made to the Corporations of Clydebank, Coatbridge, and Stirling.

[The article backs up the letters previously published in the Glasgow Herald (here and here) about unemployment among women shirt-makers, and mentions that voluntary work-parties making shirts for the army may be making the situation worse.  The reported response by 'the authorities' (who?) seems distinctly feeble - they appreciate the danger but hope it won't happen, without apparently doing anything about it.

The two sectors here show the contrast between a largely female workforce in garment making, and a largely male workforce (at that time) of clerks and typists. The large numbers of men being called up or volunteering created vacancies that could be filled by men who had lost their jobs.  Ultimately, the shortage of male labour led to new opportunities for women, but at this stage of the war, most employers were not yet ready to employ women in jobs which had traditionally been seen as male.]  


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