Labor: Quality

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: Quality

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Rough estimates suggest that improvements in the quality of the labour force had a bigger quantitative impact on quality‐adjusted labour input than the increase in man‐hours. A steady small improvement in labour quality came from the reduction in the proportion of young people in the labour force. It is postulated that increasing intensity of work fully offset the reduction in hours of work before 1914, and that this offset diminished thereafter until it was zero after World War II. The average years of formal schooling that had been received by the labour force rose by about 0.6–0.7 of a year per decade until 1931 and a little more slowly thereafter. Improvements in the standards of technical education, on the other hand, appear to have been rather more rapid after 1931 than before. The estimates of the quality of the labour force are subject to large margins of error and do not include an allowance for labour attitudes or the quality of entrepreneurship. There was a trend toward labour attitudes more favorable to productivity in the nineteenth century and the interwar period but that trend was interrupted between the 1890s and 1920 and, with a few exceptions, did not continue after World War II. The quality of entrepreneurship showed signs of deterioration up to World War I followed by improvement in the interwar and post‐war periods.

Keywords: education; entrepreneurship; labour attitudes; labour force composition; labour quality; work intensity

Chapter.  9006 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic History

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