The levelling of pay in Britain during the Second World War

Gazeley, Ian (2006) The levelling of pay in Britain during the Second World War. European Review of Economic History, 10 (2). pp. 175-204. ISSN 1474-0044

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Abstract

This article examines the effect of total war on inequalities in pay in munitions industries in Britain during World War Two. I present new data derived from Ministry of Labour monthly reports of changes in wage-rates, which allows for a systematic analysis of pay inequality by skill category and by gender and age. I also investigate changes in earnings equality using data derived from Earnings and Hours Enquiries and from records of the National Arbitration Tribunal. I conclude that pay differentials defined by skill, gender or age narrow considerably during World War Two. For men, the War represented an accentuation of a trend towards greater levelling that commenced in the later part of the 1930s and continued in the immediate post-war years. This was not the case for women workers. During the War years gender pay inequality in munitions industries was substantially reduced, but some of these gains were eroded with the coming of peace and demobilisation. Wartime labour policy was directed toward the de-skilling of manufacturing work and this was coupled with both a significant expansion of unionisation (especially among unskilled workers) and institutional and legal changes that strengthened the bargaining position of trade unions. These factors suggest that institution factors worked in conjunction with labour demand effects to reduce pay inequality in those industries crucial for the war effort.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain
Depositing User: Ian Gazeley
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:48
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2012 11:16
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/22269
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