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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Your 80s: Finding a job
Protest in Liverpool, 1980
High unemployment sparked protests
The Magazine is compiling a people's history of modern Britain - featuring your written memories and photos. We started with the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s and continue this week with the 80s.

It was the decade of Thatcher, yuppies, chunky mobile phones and BMX bikes.

But among the hundreds of written memories you e-mailed to us, it was clear that the economic impact of Thatcherism was a key ingredient to your recollections of the 1980s.

Her monetarist policies may have caused the Big Bang in London's Square Mile, and kick-started an ailing economy, but they also sent unemployment soaring to three million.

Here is a selection of your comments about finding work in the 1980s.


I was a teenager during the early 80s, growing up in Leeds, against a background of recession that people here in the South-East do not even think happened.
Simon Jackson, 1982
I remember very clearly the death of industry, presaged by hopeless strikes, seeing the roofless former steel plants by the M1 in South Yorkshire, and that nothing replaced them, and other industries. I remember local cases of men in their 50s, with no hope of re-employment, trying to kill themselves. What stands out most clearly, though, for me, is the Miners' Strike of 1984-85, when I was a student in Nottingham, the "soft underbelly" of that industrial action, when the Socialist Workers smuggled in a striking Nottinghamshire miner to address the university.
Simon Jackson, 2006
The place was bristling with police, and the atmosphere was electric with tension. I don't recall much about what he said, but I was, in retrospect, watching the death-rattle of socialism. Politically, that time was the inverse of now: Mrs. Thatcher had strong principles, but no compassion; New Labour appears to have a conscience, but no principles.
Simon Jackson, Barnet, Hertfordshire

I was 15 years old, and in Glasgow when the reality of her policies bit in 1980. One by one, friends who had already left school were made redundant, apprentices were laid off, hope of a future dwindled. I spent an identity crushing two years unemployed when I left school - with my shiny, useless qualifications, shuffling in the queue at the unemployment office. Someone had spray painted 'Teenage Wasteland' on the building, and they were right. In the end, I left Scotland, so did one million others that year, out of a population of 7 million. Got a job, and then bought a house three months before the market crashed. Can't say she impressed me much.
Sandra, Gloucester, UK
Perhaps I grew up in a parallel 1980s to the one Andrew Marr knew. For being brought up in the heartlands of the industrial North West, it wasn't all milk and honey as this article might suggest. For everyone I knew, the 80s were more about three million unemployed and miners begging for food at the front door. Sure, liberating the financial markets might have created shock waves in the square mile but 200 miles away and the destruction of industry bit deep. Today, an entire generation of intelligent children of the 1980s have fled the North in search of opportunities that no longer exist 'back home'.
Andy B, Winchester, Hants (formerly St. Helens, Merseyside)

I remember travelling to visit family in south east England and passing by the derelict factories and coal mines in Yorkshire and the Midlands, and then seeing all the smart new houses and office blocks being built in the Home Counties. The only time I was driven to school was when the bus drivers were on strike. We were sent to hang around town during school lunch breaks because our teachers were working to rule as part of a pay dispute and were refusing to supervise us outside of lessons. Fridays were market day and the miners from the pits across Leeds would come to collect money for their strike fund and give out yellow Coal Not Dole stickers.
Liz, London

A bleak and depressing decade on a par with the 1930s, particularly for the north in the early 80s, factory closures, spending cuts , under investment, mass unemployment. A brief boom fuelled by greed then another slump this time across the whole country and even a poll tax. Thought that some parts of the country would never recover, they probably have but the trauma remains for many people.
Paul, Halifax
I remember my Dad being out of work a lot as he works as a toolmaker. There wasn't much 'boom' but everyone else was in the same position. My favourite Christmas present ever was the Sindy Doll clothes my mum made me. There were about 25 different outfits. Ironically that was the year my Dad was out of work over Christmas and my mum had to make them all.
Suzanne, Birmingham

Growing-up in a small village in north Nottinghamshire, I remember the fallout from Thatcherism vividly. While the modern economy boomed in London, much of my local area dependent on manufacturing industry and the coalfields declined at an alarming rate. Local economies that were once vibrant fell away into decay and poverty. Unemployment was at an all-time high, and prospects for many people of my generation were bleak. The early to mid-1980s was a desperate time to grow-up in, and I despise Thatcher for the way she dispatched many people to the scrapheap without any remorse or feeling.
JDM, London

I was brought up on Merseyside, and the 1980s will always be summed up for me by a man stopping me (and all of us) on the railway bridge one morning as we walked to school. "Does your dad run his own business?" he asked. "Does he need anyone?" He was desperate, like over two million others. Our town had 25% unemployment, but that one man is the one I always remember. In an earlier age, he would have been building ocean liners, but not in the 1980s!
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

Nicole Poole
I clearly remember telling my teacher at the age of four that Margaret Thatcher was a horrible woman because she'd made my Dad lose his job. My Dad worked for the GLC (now the Mayor of London's office).
Nicole, London
There were not many porches or yuppies getting high on cocaine in South Wales. I remember growing up with mass unemployment, an education littered with strikes. Thatcher tried to assassinate Wales as a country but like her, we survived!
R Wood, Port Talbot

The 1980s brought more economic uncertainty to ordinary families. I was married in December 1979 and we moved into our first home, bought on a mortgage with ever higher interest rates.
Lesley Barrett, 1984
Thanks to the new Tory government's economic policies, my husband was made redundant three months later. At Christmas 1980 he was made redundant again from his next job. Norman Tebbit urged the unemployed to get on their bikes and look for work, so my husband did. He couldn't find a job in our home town this time but found work in London during the week, coming home at weekends. I worked at a university and in the summer of 1981, can remember the shockwaves which went through the universities when the University Grants Commission announced huge cuts to university budgets as the assault on higher education began.
Lesley Barrett, 1988
My husband found work in the oil industry and we thought that moving to Aberdeen would improve our fortunes, but soon after we moved there the oil price crashed, bringing disaster to the property market there and the term 'negative equity' first came into common use. People were left owing more money to the building society than they could sell their house for, and there were house for sale signs in every street. We managed to return to England by selling our house for less than we paid for it, but on buying a home in England, watched our monthly budget eaten away by the relentless rise in interest rates. Maggie Thatcher represented a party which promoted family values, and so I could never understand why they pursued economic policies which made it hard for families to thrive.
Lesley Barrett, Norwich

Thousands and thousands of jobs being lost every week. Miners and ambulance crews begging on the streets. The unions being crushed, whole communities bereft of any opportunity for employment. Going into the job centre where the cards were yellow with age, asking why they weren't taken down and being told that then there would be no cards at all. Unemployment marches, anti-nuclear marches and the forlorn chant of Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out, out, out. Tax cuts for the rich, job cuts for the working class. The introduction of cash machines, the rise of aids and heroin addiction. Watching the Falklands war on television, the marriage of Charles and Di. Riots on the streets, many of which were never reported, supposedly to prevent copycat riots. All in all, a decade which served only to induce severe depression in most people.
Lesley Robertson, Ayr, UK

I lived in Bolton in the 80s. I spent many hours arguing after watching news of the miners strike with my dad. It is strange now that although I despise Thatcher and the way the media portrayed the miners, economically I see it was the only way forward. And although we argued at least we talked to each other. Unfortunately I think it was the start of a violent decline that led me to take my family away from the cramped depression of a northern English town.
Steven, Ontario, Canada

Mass unemployment homelessness and deprivation. The cause of this, Thatcherism, has continued unabated in every government since. Today is no different other than the news media fail to highlight these problems like they did in the 1980's.
Rob J Wills, Bicester, England
I turned 13 in 1980 and a new era dawned. This is for me a decade where I watched Thatcher destroy the country, crushing the miners with her new police state and privatising the "Nationals". By 1989 I was a "Goth" with a degree with no prospect of a job.
Andrew, Bridport, Dorset UK

Unemployment, recession, depression, jobless, hopelessness, despair, lack of opportunity. A generation of people with no prospect in life.
Colin, Belfast

I vividly remember being at school in the early 1980s safe in the knowledge that there was no point trying hard because unless you went to Uni, there were no jobs for when you left school. We all stayed there as long as we could! The lucky ones got onto a good YOP (Youth Opportunity Programme) or later, a YTS (Youth Training Scheme). Employers paid you a pittance to make tea. I recall 35 per week being the YTS wage). Useless unless you managed to get in with a major company and were kept on - banks, Telecom etc.
Anna Ginnaw, Leeds

Leaving school with no qualifications didn't make you feel like a social pariah. After all school life didn't force-feed SATs and emphasise parental involvement, most working class lads were getting ready to do some hard graft not got to university. On leaving it was down the pit, driving, welding, plumbing... just as Dad expected!
Tim Greenslade, Chesterfield England

After an almost idyllic 70s (I was born in 1970 in Middlesbrough), the 80's were a bit of a jolt: race riots and the "Day of action" in our school; my dad losing his job and finding it impossible to get another. He wasn't the only one and it showed on the estate where we lived; most of the girls being Durannies and most of the boys laughing; the ubiquitous Frankie T-shirts, Adidas Samba and wedge haircuts; getting a home computer for the first time (a ZX Spectrum) and swapping games with mates.
Darren Stephens, Whitby, UK

OTHER 80s MEMORIES
Still remember the shock on waking up one morning to find we were at war with the Argies. 1983 responsibility dawns and all my mates go off to be merchant bankers, stockbrokers and vicars while I decide to have a gap year in London working for a charity. I discover what it means to be poor - still remember not having a fiver when I was offered a ticket to see the Police at Wembley! Did see Live Aid on the telly though - legendary! Next year even more bizarrely I decide to become a teacher and do my training in Liverpool - still on some sort of guilt trip about my privileged upbringing and education I guess. Well if you want to be sure you like teaching try it in Liverpool - when I was there it was the heyday of Thatcherian oppression and Degsy Hatton which really filled the students with enthusiasm for learning. The horrors of the classroom were mitigated by the joy of being able to see one of the two best football teams in the world every Saturday - I've still not seen a better front two than Dalglish and Rush. Will never forget walking into the student bar to see the Reds play Juventus either to find the game was delayed - the atmosphere in school next day was something else too. In 1985 I moved to Bradford just missing the fire to take up a teaching job in Leeds. Southern boy in Yorkshire took some getting used too. Memories of teaching - striking against Maggie and going down the pub instead of taking lessons. The whole thing being much more laid back than now with no league tables, data, computers or support staff - I still remember using a banda machine to do resources and you could get away with loads of fun that you can't do now.
Alasdair Duncan, Cambridge then Liverpool then Bradford - still here!

A primary school in south London
Here is a rather grainy staff photo from my first teaching job, in a primary school just off the Old Kent Road in south-east London. Twenty years on, it would be a great surprise if the ethnic mix of the staff was still the same as in 1987. At least four of the teachers became heads, so there must have been a commitment to public service which has lasted!
David Barclay, Worcester

The 1980s was the time I left school (Lower 6th Form), and having to make the decision, A-Levels to university or work. I made the latter, and started my job as a computer operator for Amey Roadstone. We worked an ICL 1902T mainframe, took up a large room. Operated George 2 OS, with paper-tape input and line-printer output. It ran the regional accounting system, Month Ends meant working from 15:00 right through the night until 8am the next day. Shift allowances meant I was well paid, but only got a small redundancy package in 1983 when the company de-centralised and each office got its UNIX systems, which filled a desk instead of a room. Under Thatcher I was unemployed until 1987, when I retrained on PC Accounting systems, thanks to the 'Restart' courses, a way to get people off the unemployment register, but got me back to work until 1989.
Colin Bartlett, Abingdon Oxfordshire

Having done "O" levels in 1980 and "A" levels in 1982 I went to university in London. I have strong memories of the miners' strike. I came from a mining village in South Wales and going home to visit during and after the miners' strike was heart breaking. Arthur Scargill has a lot to answer for, for being so pig headed. But I can never forgive Thatcher for the devastation she caused to so many people. How people can idolise her is beyond me.
David Gray, Cirencester UK

They sucked. Thanks to Thatcher I was thrown on the scrapheap at 20. The total decimation of British industry by the conservatives after they relaxed exchange controls has put us in the position this country finds itself today. They exported millions of jobs and used the revenues from North Sea oil to pay for the mass unemployment caused. Hard-fought-for workers rights, over a hundred years, were ignored or made illegal, a sorry attempt by the government to ensure that a Tory government could never be brought down by the workers. The miners' strike and the decision to switch to gas and nuclear power while we still had 4-500 years of coal reserves cheap imports of Polish coal. Police chatting to picketing miners then the Met weighed into them once the TV crews arrived to show how violent the pickets were. I witnessed it all.
Niall Campbell, Fleetwood, England

She didn't just sacrifice the miners, she destroyed the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of others as well, without a spark of remorse. Not only she did take our jobs from us, which we loved and did well and skilfully, she took our self-respect. She threw us on the dole, which she then cut and, to make sure we stayed down, she cut the connection between pensions and wages, ensuring we would stay in poverty forever, until we died.
Peter Smith, Bedford

For most of the 1980s I was underemployed and very poor, a direct result of the Thatcher government's attempt to close down the North of England. I don't buy the revisionist version of Thatcher and her governments; I didn't like them then, and as a prosperous member of the middle class I still don't like them, what they did, or what they stood for.
John Knight, Beverley UK

I started university in the heart of the Mining Midlands, in Nottingham in 1981. Helping out at soup kitchens and running creches for the children of the miners while they were out picketing was a Student Union initiative I was involved in. The police and the flying pickets were regularly around the roads in Nottinghamshire. Then I entered journalism in 1984. Mostly working in the North I experienced the Thatcher years as an era of the end of industries across the North - shipbuilding, heavy engineering and others following mining into an abyss. Unemployment was high in some areas. It's odd to look back now. I'm married to a Southerner who always lived here. He thinks the Thatcher era was one of great riches and wealth and boom. It wasn't in the Industrial heartlands of the North and North West where I worked. We spent much of that era covering redundancies daily. It was a very, very split society - and many people here in London and the South East still don't believe it I don't think. The news coverage from London often seemed very alien when you lived in Manchester believe me! All that Loadsamoney and Champagne Charlie!
Fiona Fulford, London, England





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