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War Economy

Direction of Labour

Direction of Labour

For the first few months of 1942 the National Service Department used the new control over labour cautiously. Fewer than five thousand direction orders were issued up to the end of June, compared with over fifteen thousand in the following six months.

By 31 March 1943 nearly twenty-seven thousand persons had been directed into essential work, and directions were being made at the rate of three or four thousand a month. Before the war finished the total was to reach 176,000.

page 102
Directions into Essential Work1
Number of Directions Complied With
Period covered Males Females Total
Up to 31 March 1943 22,300 4,700 27,000
Year ended 31 March 1944 41,300 11,700 53,000
Year ended 31 March 1945 53,500 16,000 69,600
Year ended 31 March 1946 21,400 5,100 26,600
Total to 31 March 1946 138,500 37,600 176,1002

For so far-reaching a control, direction of civilian labour proceeded with surprisingly little friction. The need for the co-operation of workers' and employers' organisations and, through them, of workers and employers individually, made it advisable to set up joint advisory bodies representing each important industry. Accordingly, shortly after the introduction of industrial mobilisation in January 1942, Manpower Utilisation Councils and Committees were established. The function of each Manpower Utilisation Council, which was a national organisation, was to advise the National Service Department on the use of labour in the industry with which the Council was concerned. Local Manpower Committees, tributary to these Councils, were to advise the District Manpower Officers and the Armed Forces Appeal Boards on the best local use of labour. Utilisation Councils and Committees were established as the need arose, until twenty-six industries were covered.

Appeal committees were also necessary. Of their establishment the National Employment Service writes:3

‘With the introduction of industrial mobilization in January 1942, it became necessary to constitute independent authorities to deal with the appeals of workers and employers arising out of decisions of District Manpower Officers. Consideration was given to the suggestion that this work might well be performed by existing Armed Forces Appeal Boards or, as they were termed at the time, District Advisory Manpower Committees. The extreme pressure under which these bodies were working at the time, and the desirability of establishing authorities especially equipped to deal with the industrial as distinct from the military aspect of compulsory national service, decided the Government against the proposal. It was decided, instead, to establish Man- page 103 power Appeal Committees, each of which would be composed of one representative of employer interests, one representative of employee interests, and a Chairman appointed independently by the Government. Four Industrial Manpower Appeal Committees were established initially, with territories based on the four main centres and empowered to deal with all appeals arising out of the decisions of Manpower Officers in their respective territories. During 1942 the volume of work of Industrial Manpower Appeal Committees grew appreciably, and in 1943 it was found necessary to establish two committees instead of one for the Wellington zone.’

Under 3 per cent of direction orders were appealed against and, of these appeals, rather more than a third were allowed.

1 Adapted from Table 28, Parliamentary Paper H-11a, Report of National Service Department, 1946, p. 140.

2 Due to ‘rounding’, totals may disagree with the total of individual items as shown.

3 Parliamentary Paper H-11a, Report of the National Service Department, 1946, p. 33.