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War Economy

Manpower Registers

Manpower Registers

The regulations made every civilian liable for direction to work of national importance, irrespective of age or sex, and provided for the registration of persons by successive age and occupation page 100 groups.1 Originally it had been announced by Mr Fraser2 that information collected from the Social Security registration forms would provide the basis of a National Register of Manpower. A considerable amount of work was done in classifying the Social Security forms,3 but it was wasted when the job had to be abandoned to get quicker action on a narrower front. Full-scale registration had proved too formidable a task. Men or women were required to register in groups as needed. Administration was decentralised, with registration in the hands of individual District Manpower Officers. The size of the group to be registered was determined by the capacity of the manpower officers to cope with the work, and new groups were not registered until work on previous groups was nearing completion.

In general, the system was to call on all persons within certain narrow age ranges to register their names; but, to meet the pressing needs of some industries, persons in broader age groups with particular types of skill or experience were also required to register. Some 115,000 men had registered their names with the manpower officers by 1943, including civilians between the ages of 18 and 45 whose liability to register for military service came before their liability to register for employment.

There was some hesitation in calling for registration of women and, when the first registration order went out in March 1942, only young women aged 20 and 21 were asked to register. The upper age limit was gradually extended to reach 30 in September 1942, and, in February 1943. girls of 19 and 20 were also required to register. Finally, women up to the age of 40 were included in January 1944. Registration was not compulsory for those women whose domestic duties included the care of children under 16 years old. By the end of March 1944, 147,000 women were registered for employment.

The following table of successive registration orders illustrates the growing intensity of the search for men and women who could be directed to fill gaps left in essential industries by armed

1 The first sentence of Clause 7 (1) read: ‘The Minister may, by notice given in such manner as he thinks fit, direct all persons of any specified class or of specified classes, whether normally engaged in any occupation or not, to register for employment with the nearest District Man-power Officer or with any other specified official.’

Clause 7 (3) read: ‘Every person registered under this regulation shall, as required by the District Man-power Officer, undertake such employment or training for employment as that Officer may direct, and shall continue in such employment or training for such period as the said Officer may require.’

2 On 13 February. Mr Fraser was then Deputy Prime Minister. Reported in Dominion, 21 March 1940.

3 As authorised by the Social Security (Supplementary) Regulations, gazetted 20 March 1940, which also required extra information to be supplied by persons 16 years old or over, when registering. Previously, for example, only those under 20 had been required to give information on their ages.

page 101 forces recruitments. Men aged 18 to 45 had already registered for military service, and those who had not yet been called up or who had been rejected for military service were also available for direction if required. The search for men with special skills went side by side with the search for those with no immediate military responsibilities.
Registration for Work of National Importance
Dates of Registration Orders1
Date Classes covered 2
18/3/42 Men aged 46–49 inclusive, and women aged 20–21 inclusive
18/3/42 Men with experience in building and construction, aged 18–70 inclusive
18/3/42 Men with experience in engineering and metal trades, aged 18–70 inclusive
8/4/42 Men aged 50 but not 51
7/5/42 Men with experience in the timber industry, aged 18–65 inclusive
15/7/42 Women aged 22–25 inclusive, resident in boroughs of Hamilton and Cambridge
3/8/42 Women aged 22–23 inclusive
24/9/42 Women aged 24–30 inclusive
8/10/42 Men aged 51–59 inclusive
8/10/42 Aliens aged 18–45 inclusive
3/2/43 Persons with qualifications or experience in science or engineering
18/2/43 Women aged 18–19 inclusive
26/1/44 Women aged 31–40 inclusive

The order in July 1942 covering women aged 22 to 25 living in Hamilton or Cambridge is specially interesting. They were required to staff a local munitions factory.

1 Based on table in Parliamentary Paper H-11a, Report of the National Service Department, 1946, p. 133.

2 As a general rule exempted classes were provided for in each case, including, inter alia, persons already registered, members of the Forces, invalids, and other classes definitely unavailable for direction into (other) employment.