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War Economy

Armed Forces Recruitments have their Effect

Armed Forces Recruitments have their Effect

Though the farmers were one of the first groups to complain about the depletion of the civilian labour force by armed forces recruitments, they do not seem to have been seriously inconvenienced until later in the war. Labour requirements on farms decreased during the war, but labour requirements were increasing in manufacturing and in most other industries. Consequently, though certainly in need of some protection, farmers were generally better able to sustain losses to the armed forces than were most other essential industries. Unfortunately, this difference in labour force trends was not recognised during the war, and as a consequence mistakes were made.

page 192

Losses of men to the Armed Forces were considerable and it was inevitable that, in spite of the falling tendency in farm labour requirements, farmers would, before too long, run short of labour. In the very earliest days of voluntary recruitment for the wartime Armed Forces, farming did not receive any special manpower protection, and considerable numbers of farm workers entered the forces. Very soon there were complaints from farmers, but, with a pool of unemployed labour still unabsorbed, these complaints were not at the time taken too seriously.1 However, during the 1940–41 season, the National Service Department regarded the farming industry as on the priority border-line and the brake was increasingly applied to the recruitment of farm workers.2 In the 1941–42 season, because of increasing pressure for food production and the labour losses already sustained, the labour priority for farming was much higher.

To strengthen the New Zealand home defence forces after Japan entered the war in December 1941, it was necessary to call for men from all industries. By February 1942, over 40,000 extra men had joined the forces, bringing the total strength to nearly 124,000. No accurate estimate can be made of the number lost to farming, but it almost certainly exceeded 20,000.3

1 See also p. 83.

2 Parliamentary Paper H-11a, Report of National Service Department, 1946, p. 35.

3 See also p. 94.