At the start of the postwar period, once demobilisation was complete, the British work-force was overwhelmingly male, working a 48-hour week, with approximately equal numbers involved in industry and the service sector. By the 1990s there was a significantly bigger, more diverse labour force. The hard core in heavy industry had substantially diminished, work patterns had changed with the enormous growth of part-time employment and there was a much more even balance between males and females. Unemployment, which had been at almost insignificant levels in the late 1940s, re-emerged in the 1970s and since 1979 has been at levels which compare with the interwar period.
The main changes in employment can be seen in Figure 13.1. Total employment rose for two decades until 1966, after which there has been stagnation before a rapid fall in the early 1980s and strong recovery thereafter. Male employment also peaked in the mid-1960s but has not regained its previous peak. The number of women workers, on the other hand, has expanded strongly since 1948, having been checked only by the sharp downturns after 1979 and 1990. Women made up 32 per cent of the work-force in 1951, 38 per cent in 1971 and now comprise almost 45 per cent. The number of full-time women workers has changed little since 1950, but the number of female part-timers has grown rapidly. Almost half the female work-force is now employed on a part-time basis (Table 13.1) compared with 10 per cent in 1951. The number of male part-timers has also expanded, but to nothing like the same extent. The growth of part-time work for women is visible in other OECD nations but not on the same scale as Britain (Dex 1985:5; Rubery 1992:607).
At the sectoral level, the main changes in employment follow from the changes in output discussed in Chapter 12. The production industries (manufacturing, construction, gas, electricity and water) accounted for just under half total employment in the 1950s and 1960s but have