Unregistered Manpower

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th June 1947.

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Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Stafford 12:00 am, 4th June 1947

I am sorry to detain the House, but these opportunities are few and far between, and I want to direct the attention of hon. Members to an aspect of the manpower problem which I believe to be of serious importance. It concerns the fact that there are a million men of working age in this country who are missing from the official records of the Ministry of Labour. Before analysing the problem, I want to remind hon. Members of the general line of discussion in the House on the shortage and maldistribution of manpower and, in particular, of two statements in the Economic Survey for 1947; namely, the statement that the potential labour force of 18,300,000 men and women at the end of December, 1947, falls substantially short of what is needed to reach the national objectives, and later on in the same paragraph 124 of the Economic Report, the statement that the need to increase the working population is not temporary, but is a permanent feature of our national life.

The Ministry of Labour are today proceeding with, or planning, a campaign to recruit more women into industry in particular districts, to persuade those due to retire to stay on at work, and to put a number of foreign immigrants into selected industries, public services and domestic service in order to increase, by December, 1947, by the number of 100,000, the size of the working population of the country. I agree entirely with these objectives and the methods being used by the Minister of Labour, yet it seems to me to be of great importance that there are, in fact, in the country, according to what we know, some one million men of working age who are not gainfully employed, in addition to those who register as unemployed. How do we know that this is a fact? I do not want to give too many statistics to the House, but it is necessary to give some in order to establish the case. In Table IV of the Monthly Digest of Statistics, we have the analysis of the Ministry of Labour of the distribution of the total manpower in Great Britain. This analysis purports to be a complete analysis of the working population, including employers, self-employed, and employees and professional people, and it includes all males of working age from 14 to 64 years, except the one category of private domestic service.

If the figures in this analysis of the total number of men in the working population are compared with the actual number of men of working age in the total population for the whole country, it will be found that there is a discrepancy of some one and a half million men. Actually taking the population figures given every six months, on 30th June last there was a difference of 1,647,000, and on 31st December last year there was a difference of 1,781,000 in the number of men in the total male population of working age as against the number accounted for in the Ministry of Labour analysis of the total working population. Between one and a half million and one and three quarter million of men of working age are missing from the analysis which is called "Distribution of the total manpower in Great Britain." Some of these can be accounted for, although they are not given in this particular analysis in the Monthly Digest. Those boys and men in a variety of cases are accounted for in other categories, and I propose to give those whom I have been able to account for myself. Here I would like to thank the Minister of Labour and his experts for the assistance they have given me over a period of time in order to enable me to give this analysis.

Taking the period twelve months ago, in June, 1946, the categories that can be excluded in this 1,647,000 men who are missing from the analysis of working population are as follow. There were schoolboys of 14 years of age or over in all kinds of State and private schools who totalled 395,000. University students or students at technical colleges or Government training centres totalled 85,500. Then there were pensioners totally incapacitated as a result of two world wars, who numbered some 54,000. There were the men who were in mental institutions of varying types who numbered 72,000. There was the prison population which, at that date, came to the astounding total of 15,000 with 5,400 in approved schools and 480 in remand homes, making a total of 20,840. Finally, there were the deserters from the Armed Forces who officially in June, 1946, were given as 20,800. That gives a grand total of 648,140 men and boys.

We are still left with a total of 998,000 men of the working population who cannot be accounted for in any way in this analysis of the total manpower of the country and who cannot be included in the working population. As far as the Ministry of Labour know, they are not gainfully employed. Who are these 998,000 men? They fall roughly into four categories. In the first place, there is the category specifically excluded from the analysis of the working population, mainly the private domestic servants. According to the Minister of Labour—and undoubtedly he is correct—the estimated number of domestic male servants in Britain is fewer than 25,000. That accounts for a very small proportion, not even 3 per cent. of this 998,000 who are unaccounted for in the working population. In the second place, there are those who are totally incapacitated as a result of industrial accidents. There is no record and no accurate estimate that can be made of the number of men in the country permanently sick or permanently invalided as a result of what might well be called industrial warfare. Anybody can make a simple, rough estimate of their number, but until the National Insurance Act and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act come into force, the exact number will not be known. However, in computing this figure we have to take these people into account. In the third place, there are the men who have retired from work before 65 years of, age. No actual estimate can be given of the number of those men, but undoubtedly they make up some proportion of this 998,000 who cannot be accounted for.

Finally, there are what one might call, and what the Lord President of the Council, in another place, called, parasites and drones. They are those who are definitely not gainfully employed, a large number of whom may be both idle and rich. The latest figure for this class is, unfortunately, not very recent, but in the financial year immediately prior to the second world war—and this figure was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis) in March of this year—a quarter of a million taxpayers made returns solely of unearned income, the total of which was £220 millions. This gives an average income of £760 per annum to these persons who are professional rentiers. They contributed nothing in the way of work, but took quite a considerable amount of unearned income. Furthermore, there are the men who are professional gamblers and drones on the community in other ways. During the fuel crisis, a weekly magazine in this country took some statements from various men in the street regarding the way in which the fuel crisis had affected them. The first man whom the reporter of this magazine met in the street was an ablebodied man of 32 years of age, who gave this statement: Ever since I left the Services, 18 months ago, I have lived entirely by gambling, old have kept my head well above water, and the wife and kids in comfort. I am a keen student of form, and have systems worked out both on the dogs and the football pools. I do not know what I shall do if the dog tracks do not open again soon. How many men in the country are living without working in that way—ablebodied men who are not recorded in any form whatever, and who could be recruited into useful work? Yet we have decided to institute campaigns to ask for married women to go into industry; to bring into the country foreign emigrés, and to ask men of 65 years of age to stay on at work. But there is an indefinite number of, men—it may be anything within this number of 998,000—who are not recorded in the analysis of working population, men of working age and men capable of work about whom nothing is known by the Minister of Labour. One can make what guess one likes as to how many men of that type there are.

I believe this demonstrates, in the first place, the urgent need for a national census in order that more can be discovered about the situation. In the second place, I think it demonstrates that the Minister of Labour should seriously consider taking a sample census—though I realise the difficulties of this—in a particular area of the country, based upon national registration, in order to be able to get some estimate of the numbers in the particular categories I have mentioned who must make up this unrecorded million men of the population who are not officially at work. Finally, I would like to know what proposals the Ministry of Labour have to bring into effective employment those men in this country who, at the moment, neither work nor want.