Work and welfare : the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations and the unemployment problem, 1919-1936
This thesis examines the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations (N.C.E.O.), and its attitude towards the unemployment problem between the Wars. Chapter 1 deals with the origins and the development of the Confederation. Founded in 1919, the N.C.E.O. specialised in employers' labour and social interests, and on both subjects, it emerged as a recognised political force. For the Confederation, however, unemployment provided a meeting place for the politics of work and the politics of social welfare. Chapter 2 examines the N.C.E.O.'s attitude towards the prevention and reduction of unemployment between the Wars. Although it was prepared initially to collaborate with the Government and the trade unions in backing direct measures to tackle unemployment, the N.C.E.O. eventually lost interest. From 1925 until the mid 1930's it argued that unemployment was mainly a function of a rigid wage structure and high standards of State social welfare. In particular, it directed criticism against Government spending on the maintenance of the unemployed. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with the N.C.E.O.'s attitude towards the unemployment insurance scheme during the 1920's. The Confederation wanted a low-benefit, low-cost scheme, which would preserve the distinctions between wage-earners and the unemployed and minimise the financial responsibilities of employers. This objective was pursued in politics, but with limited success. Chapter 5 examines the N.C.E.O.'s attitude towards the Poor Law and public assistance during the same period. The Confederation wanted to separate the insured unemployed and transfer the long-term workless to the public assistance authorities, and it argued that this should be done in conjunction with a general reorganisation of poor law relief. Chapter 6 deals with the N.C.E.O.'s role in the debate on the unemployed after 1929. It played a prominent part in the controversy over the unemployment insurance scheme in 1931, and it was actively involved in the political debate which preceded the introduction of the Unemployment Act in 1934. During these years political opinion favoured the N.C.E.O.'s views on the unemployed, and to some extent, these views were recognised by the 1934 Act. The thesis concludes that the N.C.E.O. was an important employers' organisation. Although it exercised little direct influence over Government unemployment policy, it helped to translate ideas about unemployment and the unemployed and shape the political context in which certain policies were devised and implemented.