Labour Research January 2012

LRD Centenary

Centenary News - January 1939

To mark the start of LRD’s centenary year, we’re revisiting an article which first appeared in Labour Research in January 1939.

Throughout the year we’ll feature extracts from Labour Research over the LRD’s 100-year history.

Women in industry

The January 1939 article, headlined “Women in Industry”, looked at the comparative earnings of women and men in the principal industries which women and girls were employed in, as well as employment and unemployment rates among women and men and women’s organisation in unions.

It pointed out that “women’s earnings range from considerably less than half of men’s (paper and printing trades) to slightly over half (Government industrial establishments), but are, on the average, rather less than half men’s earnings”.

And, Labour Research declared: “The low wages of women and young workers, and the consequent serious danger of their under-cutting the men, can only be altered materially by a big increase of trade union organisation. Fortunately this is beginning to be realised not only by the women themselves, but by male trade unionists.”

The article says that in 1939, male union membership stood at 4,956,000 men and women’s at only 895,000.

Although a small number out of the three million insured women workers, “it must be remembered” said Labour Research, “that in 1913 there were only 433,000 women trade unionists and the increase since then has been 107 per cent, while the increase in male trade unionists has been only 34 per cent”.