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Critically examine government attempts to deal with the problem of unemployment in inter-war Britain.

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Introduction

Critically examine government attempts to deal with the problem of unemployment in inter-war Britain The inter-war years were dominated by unemployment. This essay considers government responses to unemployment. It examines policies which were introduced intent on decreasing the number unemployed. It will also examine measures taken by foreign governments in dealing with unemployment. The National Insurance Act of 1911 only provided unemployment benefit to workers of selected trades. In 1916 however this act was extended to include munitions workers maybe in recognition of their work in the war effort. During the war unemployment remained stable somewhere around 4%, the average between 1881-1913. (Hill M) Returning to Britain after the First World War, soldiers found a very different Britain to the one in 1914. Unemployment was high, the cost of living was rising and there was a severe shortage of houses, hardly a land fit for heroes to live in. As more soldiers returned home and found it difficult or impossible to find work, the government needed to act quickly. ...read more.

Middle

In the 1922 Unemployment Act the government attempted to reduce the number of unemployed by introducing the 'genuinely seeking work test'. By the end of 1923, 1 in 20 of all claimants was failing this test. (Thane P p.164) A report published in 1932 by the National Unemployed Workers Movement titled, Mass Murder: an exposure of the means test, considered that the 'means test caused stark poverty, misery and starvation to enter thousands of working class homes. Working class parents are slowly but surely being driven insane by its use and many workers are driven to escape it by committing suicide.' Elias.S, p5 In 1924 the conservatives were in government with Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1925 Churchill returned Britain to the Gold Standard, the pound immediately became overvalued against foreign currencies. As a result of a weak pound foreign imports were relatively cheaper, but British exports became more expensive. Employers considered wage cuts would help in competing with overseas competition. ...read more.

Conclusion

Russia was to become a modern industrial country, eliminating the need for foreign imports. Employees worked longer hours creating a surplus available for export. Lenin allowed a restricted return of private trade in consumer goods. (Thane P) In Germany unemployment insurance was introduced in 1927. In 1933 when Hitler came to power he extended the public works. A huge road building programme commenced, house building was subsidized, school leavers were offered training, and employers were given incentives to take on the unemployed. (Thane P) In Sweden the Social Democrats came to power in 1932, with the promise of reducing unemployment. This was achieved by massive public spending on a programme of public works. In the United States Roosevelt promised a New Deal. This included massive public works and unemployment insurance. In examining unemployment during the inter-war years in Britain and abroad it would appear that public spending actually assists the unemployed. Although unemployment began to steadily decline during the late 1930's, it was solely owing to re-armament immediately before World War Two that the problem of unemployment receded. (www.bbc.co. ...read more.

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