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War Economy



Recruitment of men for the armed services was, at this stage, voluntary. On 8 September plans were announced for a special force of men prepared to serve in any part of the world. ‘Recruiting for the first batch of 6600 men began on 12 September, and within a week almost 12,000 men had volunteered.’3

The only interference with voluntary enlistment was the use of the list of reserved occupations which had been compiled by the Manpower Committee before the war. This list was supplied to recruiting officers, with the intention that men engaged in these reserved occupations should not be accepted for the armed forces.

In the early stages, withdrawal of men for military service did not require other than voluntary measures of adjustment in civilian employment. Men could be replaced without too much difficulty. Unemployed persons were taken back into production, some less urgent work was cut out, and more overtime was worked. Women were used to an increasing extent in industry.

While unemployed labour and other unused resources were available, the need for extra output for war purposes could be met largely by drawing them into production. There was, as yet, no call for any serious sacrifice of civilian consumption to make extra resources available for war purposes, and no need for the Government to be too restrictive about the use of labour for civilian production.

The process of voluntary adjustments continued throughout the first two years of the war, but by the end of 1941 the cumulative withdrawal of some 30 per cent of the total male working population had exhausted unused labour reserves. It was becoming increasingly difficult to replace men recruited for the armed services or to divert further manpower and resources to war production.

page 57

3 Wood, p. 98.