Labor: Quantity

R. C. O. Matthews, C. H. Feinstein and J. C. Odling‐Smee

in British Economic Growth 1856-1973

Published in print October 1982 | ISBN: 9780198284536
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596629 | DOI:

Series: Studies of Economic Growth in Industrialized Countries

 Labor: Quantity

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Labour input (measured in man‐hours) reached its all‐time high in 1913, before falling steeply in 1913–24. The post‐war period was unique among peacetime phases in having a decline in labour input, all of which occurred after 1964. Demographic causes and changes in hours of work were much the most important sources of difference in the rate of growth of labour input between periods. The annual rate of growth of population underwent a stepwise decline from about 0.9% before 1914 to about 0.5% thereafter, but the main decline in the rate of growth of the labour force did not occur until WWII, because of changes in age composition. Hours worked by full‐timers declined in a few large steps ‐ in the early 1870s, in 1919, and in 1947–48 – and then more steadily from 1955 onwards. The timing of these steps can be related to high demand and consequent strengthening of the bargaining power of labour – a perverse response of labour input to demand, not later reversed.

Keywords: employment; growth; hours of work; labour force; population; unemployment

Chapter.  24307 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic History

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