The economic upturn after 1933 gave most unions the opportunity for growth. By 1940 union membership was back to the level which it had reached in 1921, over 6.5 million, including once again over a million women workers. The war years gave membership a further boost to nearly 8 million and a steady rate of growth was to continue through until 1948 when numbers reached 9.4 million. From roughly one in four workers unionised in 1931, 45 per cent had been reached by 1951. Some areas had well over that. Coal mining and the docks had a union density of over 90 per cent; engineering struggled back to the 50 per cent it had achieved in 1921; cotton, post office workers and printing reached 80 per cent; footwear, gas and electricity over 70 per cent. The weak areas remained the financial sector, retailing, food and drink, agriculture and parts of the building industry.
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- Renewal, Regulation and Consolidation, 1933–51
W. Hamish Fraser
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