The Impact of Unemployment
Mass unemployment overwhelmed Europe during the Depression. Although the worst period came at different times for different countries, the year 1932 was bad everywhere. During the first months of 1932 the number of people receiving unemployment benefits in Belgium rose to more than 21 per cent of those insured against unemployment, in Czechoslovakia to 15 per cent, in Germany to nearly 45 per cent, and in Britain to more than 18 per cent.1 And these figures do not include the unemployed who did not qualify for unemployment benefits (professional people, some unskilled or non-unionized workers), those who had exhausted their benefits, and those who were only partially employed. The heavy burden of unemployment, much of it long-term, ate up unemployment funds, whether union, cooperative or public, so that benefits had to be reduced. Even those who remained at work often found their wages or salaries cut. The personal impact of the Depression cannot be conveyed by statistics. Homes, habits and hopes were washed away along with jobs, leaving anger or despair. The following selections were chosen to demonstrate the way the Depression bore down upon the unemployed. The first is an excerpt from a 1932 appeal by the unemployed in the British industrial cities of Manchester and Salford.
KeywordsUnemployment Benefit Fellow Citizen White Card Monthly Labor Review Personal Impact
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