Did the 48-hour week damage Britain’s industrial competitiveness

Peter Scott, Anna Spadavecchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Britain's 1919 introduction of a 48-hour week for industrial workers has been highlighted as a key factor depressing its relative labour productivity. This largely ignores both any potential offset to lower hours from higher hourly productivity and the fact that the 48-hour week was also introduced in almost all other industrialized nations (generally involving substantially greater reductions in hours). We examine the international context and the short-term impact on British productivity, focusing on three major export industries-coal, cotton, and iron and steel. Britain did not suffer any significant relative productivity loss in these industries, while reduced working hours are shown to have been partially compensated for by higher hourly productivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1266-1288
Number of pages23
JournalEconomic History Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2011


  • working hours - law & legislation
  • industrial productivity
  • labour costs
  • labour productivity
  • working hours - Great Britain
  • labour history


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