Pivots and Presents
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Our setting is the engineering and metal-manufacturing industries of Britain’s West Midlands; particularly metal manufacture, specifically the ferrous foundries. The booming economy of the first half of the 1950s brought subsequently unequalled low levels of unemployment. Pronounced labour shortages developed in some sectors of the economy. So far as the foundries were concerned, these shortages were primarily in the ‘least desirable’ jobs — the hot, dirty, noisy, physically demanding and often, but certainly not always, poorly paid. But foundries are in basic industry: numerous other sectors of the economy were and are dependent on them. From the foundry owners’ and managers’ perspectives, output had to be maintained or increased, production targets met. Labour shortages had, therefore, to be remedied. There is then an essential economic dimension to the situation we describe here: it represents an adjustment to labour shortages.2
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