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Did the UK 19th Century Factory Acts have economic benefits
September 9, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Looking to substantiate claims that introducing the 5½ day working week in the 19th century UK (the 1950 Factories Act) had the consequence of improving the economy, because those workers that had previously been working 7 day weeks could now go out and spend their (no doubt insubstantial) earnings.

I listened to a BBC Radio 4 documentary a while ago which discussed the reform of 19th century labour laws. Basically the various factory acts. I am sure that it mentioned bringing the workers' earnings back into the economy as either an intended or unintended consequence, and that this was therefore of benefit to the overall economy.

I was discussing this today and wanted to make sure I had recollected correctly, yet I can find nothing online to corroborate this. I can't remember which specific Radio 4 show this was. (I don't think it was In Our Time or Thinking Allowed--likely just a one-off special.)
posted by NailsTheCat to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like that's mentioned in Eight Hours for What We Will.
posted by spunweb at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2012


Well, 1950 was in the 20th century. The 19th century was 1800 - 1899. Maybe that could help with your searches.
posted by sbutler at 7:28 PM on September 9, 2012


Well, 1950 was in the 20th century. The 19th century was 1800 - 1899. Maybe that could help with your searches.

Ach. Thanks for spotting, but no; that was just a typo in this question. I was searching for 1850.
posted by NailsTheCat at 7:44 PM on September 9, 2012


I"ve just been reading Marx's Capital Vol 1. Which goes over the Factory Acts. And I was under the impression that the benefits of the Factory Acts may have had more to do with improvements in Health or the Working Class. That previously had been worked to an early grave.

Resulting in an increases in relative productivity with a decrease in total Working hours.
posted by mary8nne at 2:07 AM on September 10, 2012


IIRC later research suggested very strongly that working people past about 40 hours a week was a net negative to productivity: people tend to make more mistakes that took more effort to put right if they work longer. So there might have been straightforward productivity increases as a consequence of legally restricting working hours as well?
posted by pharm at 5:13 AM on September 10, 2012


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