How Significant A Problem Was Unemployment In The Inter War Years In Britain?

1078 words - 4 pages

How significant a problem was unemployment in the inter war years in Britain?The First World War had a massive impact on Britain's economy. The outdated economic models in place were not sufficient to sustain a blow of such magnitude. Not only this but the empire that formed such a pillar to that economy began to diminish. Consequently the economy was left in ruins. Between 1914 and 1938 the amount of cotton processed in Britain fell by 66%. The coal and ship building industries suffered to a lesser extent but one that was still significant. Symptomatic of this decline was wide unemployment. The shock waves of which were felt throughout the nation. But how important were the effects of this on the lives of workers and how wide spread was the problem?The loss of employment was caused by the slow disappearance of traditional work practices that diminished along with the economy. For example Lancashire had a strong lineage in the cotton industry and subsequently most of its economy and work force depended on it. When the decline began to take hold the brunt was felt by more than half the work force that lost their jobs. Between 1912 and 1948 the number of people in Lancashire with cotton related jobs fell from 621,000 to 288,000. Certainly this is a significant decline. But perhaps the impact is lessened when the fact that there were already other industries in Lancashire to take the impact is recognised. The unemployment rates for the region at the time support this.It was smaller towns that really did rely on one form of work that suffered more serious consequences. Indeed, there are numerous examples of this, many of the towns in Wales such as Monmouth, Ferndale and Dowlais suffered unemployment of rates of anything from a third to three quarters of the working age population. Going back to England the people of Jarrow, Durham relied heavily on the local shipyard for their livelihoods. The area was left virtually deserted with 80% of its workforce out of a job. It is obvious that there were pockets of terrible decline among these smaller towns unable to take a hit like more prepared economies such as that in Lancashire. With unemployment rates more than half in many of these areas the impact it must have had is almost unimaginable by today's standards where the national unemployment rate is just 6%. It had never been seen before the inter war period either. The problem was not isolated only to England and Wales but also 'special areas' in Scotland too.On a more national scales the statistics for individual industries are equally shocking and list of those seriously affected areas of work is long. Particularly cotton, iron, steel, and ship builders. Suffering losses of employment of close to half. This reiterates the argument that certain industries were hugely affected and explains the detremntal affect this had on regions that relied on these. Explicitly locations in the north and west midlands such as Bristol as well as Wales and Scotland.In...

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