chapter  1
13 Pages

THE PROBLEMS OF LABOUR MOBILITY

IsBOUR mobility, defined as the movement of labour between different employment opportunities, has long been a subject of theoretical interest to the economist. It was in the inter-war years, however, that it first acquired practical importance. Previously, economists had confined their attention, in the main, to an enumeration of the reasons why labour was not automatically attracted to occupations where wages were rising from those where they were stable or declining. The imperfect mobility of labour was thought to be the cause of failures in a self-regulating economic process; but these failures seemed unimportant and likely to do no more than delay an inevitable adjustment of supply to changing demand. This confidence was sustained by the belief that those changes in the demand for labour which were due to changes in the structure of the economy itself were essentially gradual and on a small scale, so that they could be met almost entirely by adjustments in the yearly intake of young recruits.l Unemployment, when it caused public concern, was not associated with the immobility of labour. In short, nineteenth and early twentieth century interest in mobility was, in the main, confined to its effects on wages.