chapter  19
21 Pages

Post-War Economic and Social Problems

The economic, social and political transformation after c.1850 had been unprecedented and unforeseeable, as were the economic and social problems which afflicted the region in post-war years. At the end of the war, there was a general anticipation of a return to the pre-1914 situation. Demobil­ ization of the forces proceeded with little difficulty, and most of the women who had reinforced the labour force made way for ex-servicemen. By the early 1920s a low ratio of female employment was re-established, with women providing only 20 per cent of the work force, mainly as domestic servants, dressmakers, barmaids, laundry workers, clerks, typists or shop workers. (Robinson 1988, 12)

During the war, industries on which the region primarily depended, such as coal-mining, iron and steel, engineering and shipbuilding, were fully employed, with little indication of future problems. Yet the vulnerability of the regional economy remained, with its concentration on a few interde­ pendent industrial sectors dependent on export markets, increasingly exposed to competition and reliant upon a continuing high volume of international trade.