HC Deb 15 May 1918 vol 106 cc389-90

Perhaps I might say a few words generally about our industrial position. It is quite obvious that a very complete change has taken place in our industrial life during the War. In very many industries the character of the work has completely altered, the nature of the goods produced has been changed, the methods by which they are produced have been changed, and in only a very few industries is it true to say that the same character of work is being carried on to-day as was carried on before the War. It might be of interest to the Committee to know that it is estimated that more than one-half of all the work- people engaged in industry are to-day doing work on Government account. From the most careful calculation we can make, taking a very broad view, we estimate that to-day, in the fourth year of the War, the aggregate output of industry, measured upon any intelligible basis, so far has been very little less than was the case before the War. That is a truly remarkable performance, that in the fourth year of the War, notwithstanding all the great changes that have taken place in our industrial activities, our output, so far as we can measure it, is not very much less in the aggregate than was the case before the War.


That is things, not values?


Yes. There is, of course, quite obviously, a falling off in the number of people who are employed, and a great change has taken place in that the new labour which has replaced that which has gone cannot, in the aggregate, be regarded as so efficient as that which has been lost. On the other hand, it must be clear from what I have said that more overtime must be worked, that workpeople are working harder, and there must be, in a great many instances, a considerable improvement in the methods of manufacture. This result could not have been secured, or anything approaching it, without the help of women. It is estimated that to-day, roundly speaking, there are at least 1,500,000 more women engaged upon work compared with before the War, and that upon work which has generally been regarded as work to be done by men and not by women. This is a great transformation in our industrial life. It would be quite true to say that this change will impose a very severe tax upon our ingenuity and our resources in dealing with the many problems involved in the restitution of industry after the War.

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