3 SEPTEMBER 1937, Page 24


IN this interesting book Mr. Gollan sets out to disclose what he justly considers to be one of the most serious economic and social problems of today; namely, the appalling prospects which face hundreds of thousands of our young people when, at the age of 14, finding the gates of compulsory free education closed behind them, they look around for some useful and gainful occupation. This is what they find : rationalisation and mechanisation of industry have so reduced the demand for skilled labour that, Mr. Gollan estimates, " 90 per cent. of youth in industry are engaged in either completely unskilled or semi-skilled labour "; adequate trade-training is therefore enjoyed only by some tenth of our young workers, and for the rest blind-alley employment with negligible prospects of pro- motion or better pay is all that is offered.

They see cheap juvenile labour being taken on in large numbers between the ages of 14-17 without any attempt at providing a reasonable degree -of trade-training or apprentice- ship, and when adult age is reached and the pay of adults demanded, the majority is given the sack and in its place new, cheap, unskilled juvenile labour is employed. The result is that the highest incidence of unemployment is between the ages of 21-25. " For all areas of the country and practically for all industries the question of blind-alley, onskilled, low-paid labour, casualisation and unemployment at the threshold of life has become a veritable nightmare for the youth of Britain."

The system of apprenticeship appears almost completely to have broken down owing to the refusal of youth to embark upon a long period of training when the likelihood of their afterwards obtaining adult positions is so remote. Youth is the most valuable capital asset of the nation, and the fact that so high a percentage is going into unskilled and secondary employment or is gradually losing its " employability " through periodic or continued forced idleness is a most disturbing problem, which gravely threatens the future of the country.

But Mr. Gollan is not only negative in this book. He has valuable positive. suggestions to make, remedial action which he calculates should at least mitigate, if nor entirely solve, the problems of youth in modern industry.

" These suggestions are not altogether new," he tells us ; but the extensive support which they evoke among organisa- tions and individuals interested in social reform amply com- pensates for this lack of originality. Here are some of his suggestions : The raising Of the school-leaving age to i6 with maintenance grants of 5s. and no. exemptions ; from r6-r8 years compulsory part-time attendance at day con- tinuation schools during working hours ; extended power- to Juvenile Employment Committees, especially the power to refuse child labour for blind-alley occupations ; a nes' scheme of trade-training and apprenticeship, regulating juvenile labour to adult labour at the ratio r : 3 at the most 4o-hour week for all youth; no overtime, or employment at night for young persons under 21 ; a fortnight's holiday with pay and complete abolition of child labour.

It is perhaps not unnatural that in his treatment of this subject—a subject which certainly throws little of credit upon the system which produced it—Mr. Gollan has at times allowed the fervour of his politics to impede the objectivity of his research. Youth in British Industry is, however, an important work and should receive serious consideration from all those who are_ interested in the well-being of this country and its people. A great deal of research has been undertaken for its compilation, and this has been ably used by one who is obviously familiar with the technicalities and idiosyncrasies of the industries with which he deals and with the problem which confronts him. It is the most compre- hensive and thorough study that has yet been undertaken of the problems of youth in industry—problems which are most urgent today and which should be faced without delay.