Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Summary of Government Dilution programme, 20 Jan 1916

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Within a year of the commencement of hostilities it had become obvious to both government and employers alike that British manufacturing industry had struggled to keep pace with the military demands for armaments. In addition, with ever increasing numbers of men enlisting and a declining industrial male workforce, it was becoming even harder to sustain this already inadequate level of output.

Recognising this, the government accepted the need for direct state intervention in the economy and gradually most sectors of manufacturing industry came within the scope of the Munitions of War Act of 1915. This Act abandoned union regulations for the duration of the war and paved the way for a mass influx of unskilled men and women into the munitions factories.

Many historians now argue that women's gains as a result of their war effort and greater involvement in the war economy were in actual fact extremely light. There was no overall increase in women's employment after the war as women had concentrated their employment in industries, which either shed labour or restored male workers in 1918. Women who had 'won the war' became 'limpets' or 'bread-snatchers' if they sought to continue working in industry after the war had finished.