A century of industrial change

The Office For National Statistics has just published a brief report that outlines the huge changes to industry and society over the past 100 years.

More than 7 million people were employed in production in 1907 – compared with 3 million today.

The biggest employers were iron and steel making, engineering and shipbuilding with 1.4 million wage earners, followed by textile trades, with 1.2million.

Further details include:

No fewer than 25 per cent of these jobs were held by women workers - higher than the 23 per cent of workforce jobs in production currently filled by women.

Many of these women were quite young – in 1907, 25 per cent of female wage earners were under 18, compared with only 12 per cent of male wage earners.

Younger workers were more prominent in certain industries than others – over 23 per cent of wage earners in both paper, printing and stationery and in textile trades were aged under 18, compared with just 2 per cent of wage earners in public utilities.

One of the concerns of the 1907 census was absenteeism among staff – a worry that led to the introduction of licensing hours during the First World War due to fears that ammunition workers were spending too much time in pubs.

The 1907 census found that the number of people at work on Mondays was on average only 94.8 per cent of those on Wednesdays.

Absences were higher among the under-16s.

Some of today’s key industries did not exist in 1907.

Employment in the manufacture of electronic computers was not measured until 1963, when it was 10,400; it peaked at 67,500 in 1993 and stood at 22,000 in 2004.

Aerospace was not included in the 1907 Census of Production, but by 1924 it employed 12,700 people, compared with 101,000 in 2004.

For more details see From carriages and carts to computers and aerospace (ONS).

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