Did the 48-Hour Week Damage Britain's Industrial Competitiveness?

23 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2011

See all articles by Peter M. Scott

Peter M. Scott

University of Reading - Henley Business School

Anna Spadavecchia

University of Reading

Date Written: November 2011

Abstract

Britain's 1919 introduction of a 48‐hour week for industrial workers has been highlighted as a key factor depressing its relative labour productivity. This largely ignores both any potential offset to lower hours from higher hourly productivity and the fact that the 48‐hour week was also introduced in almost all other industrialized nations (generally involving substantially greater reductions in hours). We examine the international context and the short‐term impact on British productivity, focusing on three major export industries - coal, cotton, and iron and steel. Britain did not suffer any significant relative productivity loss in these industries, while reduced working hours are shown to have been partially compensated for by higher hourly productivity.

Suggested Citation

Scott, Peter M. and Spadavecchia, Anna, Did the 48-Hour Week Damage Britain's Industrial Competitiveness? (November 2011). The Economic History Review, Vol. 64, Issue 4, pp. 1266-1288, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1939633 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2010.00590.x

Peter M. Scott

University of Reading - Henley Business School ( email )

Greenlands
Reading, Henley on Thames RG6 6AH
United Kingdom

Anna Spadavecchia

University of Reading ( email )

Greenlands
Reading, Henley on Thames RG6 6AH
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
2
Abstract Views
423
PlumX Metrics