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The British labour market in historical perspective: changes in the structure of employment and unemployment

Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science
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  • Hd Industries. Land Use. Labor
  • Economics
  • Education


The paper uses Department of Employment data, the New Earnings, General Household and Labour Force Surveys and the Census of Population to look at changes in the structure of employment and unemployment in Britain over the post-war period. Trends such as rising female labour force participation and part-time employment have been ongoing for four decades. Other purported trends, e.g. rising temporary employment are not shown in the data at all. Growth in employment is coming solely in professional and managerial occupations, replacing manual and lower paid work for both men and women. The relative labour market position of less well qualified men has not detiorated when considering the whole period 1979-93 and falling aggregate unemployment appears to benefit all groups in the labour market. There has been a trend towards labour market withdrawal due to sickness and early retirement for both men and women. The trends for men are matched in the U.S, Canada and Germany, throwing doubt on the relevance of further education and training initiatives as a means of reversing labour market withdrawal.

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