The fact that Queen Elizabeth has reigned for 60 years is quite some achievement and one of tremendous economic and social change.
Any anniversary gives cause for reflection and the Diamond Jubilee is no different. Some economic commentators have compared the state of economic affairs to those that existed when Victoria celebrated her 60 years on the throne in 1897.
Such comparison is always going to be problematic – the world has changed so much.
In 1897 Britain had an empire and Victoria ruled over a quarter of the globe. Britain was a country that had dominance in manufacturing which made it the envy of other nations. However, while Britain in the last 19th century was a wealthy country, it was not an equal one.
The industrial revolution had created rapid growth in cities like Birmingham and there was a notable shift of people away from rural occupations, such as farming and so-called cottage industries, and into the jobs created in a multitude of factories.
So what has happened in the last 60 years?
We certainly know that we longer enjoy the dominant position or influence we once did. In 1952 the rest of Europe was still recovering from the ravages of war and we had a manufacturing base that employed 8.7 million workers out of a total workforce of approximately 22 million. Now we employ 2.5 million workers in manufacturing out of a total workforce of 29 million.
The first 15 years of the Queen’s reign was a period when the austerity years of the war were over and, employing a variety of methods, growth was the norm.
The early and mid-1950s saw the transition from socialist planning to Keynesian demand management. The governments of Churchill, Eden and Macmillan bought into the idea of a mixed economy and full employment. Strong growth, low inflation and a buoyant jobs market marked the start of the new Elizabethan age.
In the search for an answer to international competitiveness we (the government) implemented a number of plans to ensure that our economy could become more efficient. The reign of Queen Elizabeth may be seen as consisting of two halves. The first 28 years until 1980 was one when we became, broadly, more equal.
After that we have become less so with a move away from traditional manufacturing to a greater reliance on financial services.
Every government has grappled with the challenge of ensuring that we have a more efficient and balanced economy. But they have found that success to be an elusive mistress.
We are richer than we were in 1952 but we are less secure now than ever.
Even if unemployment is not going up as dramatically as other European nations, newly-created jobs are likely to be less skilled and probably not as well remunerated. Even worse, youth unemployment is increasing.
A report, Britain in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which was authored by John Philpott, chief economic adviser of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, provides some salutary statistics of what the changes have been. Currently we have some 77 per cent of people of working age in the workforce (in 1952 it was 60 per cent). But it is in the involvement of women that we see the most pronounced change.
Whereas the activity rate for men has fallen from 88 per cent to 83 per cent, the rate for women has risen from 35 per cent in 1952 to 71 per cent now.