Here you'll find information about the Labour Exchange.
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Labour Exchanges were established in 1909. They were designed to act as places where unemployed workers could find jobs. This marked a change from the previous system where the workers had to try and find employment themselves, with no help from the state.

Thousands of new workers were needed because the men were away with the Armed Forces. Women were mostly involved in the production of wartime military supplies. By the summer of 1941, over half of the working population was employed by the government or on government schemes. It was not enough, however, and in late 1941 women were called up (conscripted) to either work in industry or join the auxiliary forces.. This meant they had to register for war work at a labour exchange. Women who were ill, or pregnant, or had small children were exempt.

A history of employment services
The state monopoly of employment services was instituted as far back as 1909, when the existing mix of private, charitable and quasi-public labour bureaux were brought under central government control under the Labour Exchanges Act, which also empowered the Board of Trade to develop a National Exchange system.
From near the very beginning, nationalised labour exchanges were staffed by civil servants and went hand-in-hand with the first UK state-run unemployment insurance scheme enacted in 1911.


This early dominance of the central state in providing financial assistance to the unemployed and in enabling job seekers to find work is related to the categorical approach to dealing with people in need that UK governments have adopted since the initial recognition of social problems such as unemployment (which was first named as such in the late Nineteenth Century). Interventions to deal with unemployment were strictly demarcated from those directed at providing financial assistance or support services for people perceived as belonging to other categories of need. This reflected the strong distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor that was inherited from the Poor Laws.

Furthermore, the 20th Century British experience of war left no question over the appropriateness of the nation state taking control of the flow of labour. Exchanges were used during World War I to increase and direct the labour supply in response to wartime shortages. In the inter-war period, however, world-wide recession shifted the main role of exchanges away from matching workers to vacancies. At this time, exchanges became associated primarily with the administration of relief as ‘the place to sign on for dole payments rather than a place to find work’ – a reputation that proved hard to shake off in the decades to follow.

The very high levels of unemployment were only brought under control when World War II was underway. As a response to ‘total war’, the exchanges were once again requisitioned for the purposes of military mobilisation and to increase the supply of labour at home. Directly after this, exchange staff had power to transfer military staff into civilian jobs, a task made easier by the compulsory notification of vacancies (which continued until 1956) and the requirement for employers to recruit only through exchange offices.
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Many women talk in this book about the Labour Exchange.
Mrs Dubus, on page 24, talks that she met a friend who was out of work, and she said:”will you come with me to the Labour Exchange? They´re going to send me for a job”
So we went and signed on. They used to give you a green ticket to take to the firm you were sent to.
Tess, on page 28, talks she was engaged as a Labour Supply officer( officer in charge of the availability of suitable human resources in a particular labour market). She was to addres women with the idea of recruiting them into war work.
Recruiting people was a combined operation. The Ministry of Supply would have a project; either its own ordinance factory had to be staffed, or a factory which was on their priority list for supplies. Where there were labour shortages there would be a conference at the Ministry of Supply on the labour position. Then somebody would be delegated the job of going into it to see what sources there were available in the locality.

Ministry of Supply set up labour bureaux. They´d hold meetings all over a town and hand out leaflets, and with part time workers, they´d have girls from the factories in the area going out in a van and talking about the jobs they did.
As Tess says: “Labour was gold, there was a tremendous shortage of labour, and we needed to increase production. You needed every pair of hands you could get, if you were serious about winning the war.”
There were agreements made between the government and the unions, concerning women working. There was an agreement about the dilution of labour, the return of men from the war, salary scales, that kind of thing.

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Eileen Smith talks, on page 30, she had a letter from the Labour Exchange to say that she was going to be sent up munitions in Scotland. When Eileen refused, the girl who was interviewing her said: “You´ll go to prison”. Finally, Eileen got a doctor´s report which allowed her not to go to Scotland.

Lucy Apton talks, on page 34, they asked her at the Labour Exchange if she would go as a ticket collector. She had left her previous job at the aeroplane factory. They always wanted to know your reasons for leaving a job. Before the war, when Lucy left the gas mask factory, the woman interviewing her at the Labour Exchange wanted to know why she left, and Lucy told her she had just left, but she wrote a great big “No” right across her card.

Dorothy Duncan, on page 56, talks that when she had to register at the Labour Exchange, they said: “What do you want to be in?” Dorothy answered that didn´t want to go a long way from home.

The Ministry of Supply (MoS) was a department of the UK Government formed in 1939 to co-ordinate the supply of equipment to all three British armed forces, headed by the Minister of Supply.

Original sources of the material I have used:
The Role of Non-Profit Organisations in the Mixed Economy of Welfare-to-Work in the UK and Australia:

Out of the Cage: Women's Experiences in Two World Wars

Liberal Welfare Reforms. Workers and Health Insurance.

The Liberal Welfare Reforms (1906-1914) were acts of social legislation passed by The British Liberal Party after the 1906 General Election.
Before 1910, the jobless had to hang around outside the factory or shipyards, relying on rumour and hearsay to find work. Or if they were really desperate, head to the workhouse. Unemployment was rising at the beginning of the 20th Century and the ill-fated Boer War had engendered a crisis of confidence in the health of Britain's workforce. But that all changed through a series of reforms.
Winston Churchill, appointed as President of the Board of Trade in 1908 when he was a Liberal MP, was given the task of solving the problem. He immediately started drafting a new social programme that included Labour Exchanges and unemployment insurance.


Labour Exchanges. Conscription agencies.

In 1909, labour exchanges were set up in order to help unemployed people find work, by providing centres where a large number of employers and the unemployed could post jobs and apply for them respectively.
By February 1910, eighty-three labour exchanges were open, and proved to be invaluable in helping people find employment. In 1913 these labour exchanges were putting around 3000 people into a job each day.

The exchanges were set up in offices, factories, shops, chapels and other locations, evident from the queues of people, some as young as 11, snaking down the street.They were painted green and contained separate rooms for men, women, employers and children.
War gave them a relevance that had been unanticipated - in both the World Wars I and II the labour exchanges became agencies for military conscription. They registered the men who were heading off to fight, and regulated the women who replaced them.

Health Insurance.

It was created as a system of contributions paid by workers and employers towards the cost of certain state benefits. It was initially a contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment, and later also provided retirement pensions and other benefits.
It was first introduced by the National Insurance Act 1911, expanded by the Labour Governement in 1948.