Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Australia 1932 - Unemployment hits 30%

In a previous post I looked at the beginning of the Great Depression, and Australia's jobless rate in 1930 - 20%.  In 1932 the unemployment rate rose to 30%. The worst in our  history.

Many other workers not listed as unemployed were only semi-employed.  Many farmers were destitute, because of the collapse of world agricultural prices, and reverted to subsistence farming - growing what they could eat.

Two men digging potatoes on farm, West Gippsland, 1930.

Obviously fuel was expensive, and so were horses it seems.

Boys plowing a field near Albury 1930s
Some men on sustenance payments, or "susso", were employed in public works programs, with many having to stay in labour camps away from their families.

Workers constructing the Yarra Boulevard, Melbourne, 1930s  (nicknamed Susso Drive)
In the cities people turned to begging and hawking, and evictions  bankruptcy and the sale of family valuable became common. Business such as retailers and manufacturers folded as the customers disappeared.  People began living in shanty towns in parks, on racecourses and in the bush, and even in the shallow sandstone caves in Sydney's Domain gardens.

Temporary Home Being Dismantled In Tent City, Red Cliffs, Victoria, c. 1932

To obtain the 'susso' payment you had to prove that you had been unemployed for at least two weeks, and be registered with the State labour exchange for at least seven days.  You could own a house and get the benefit, but no other property, such as a car.

Soup kitchen queue in Sydney in the 1930s.
As the unemployed people could not even afford to buy newspapers, the day's classifieds, with jobs available, were posted on boards outside the newspaper offices.  This lead to huge crowds outside newspaper offices each morning before dawn, with hundreds of people arriving for each position available.

Things could only get better.

Deb xx

1 comment:

  1. Such a tough time. We are so lucky today, especially compared to other countries over the last five years.


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