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1982: UK unemployment tops three million

VIDEO : Unemployment hits the UK hard

The number of people out of work in Britain has risen above three million for the first time since the 1930s.

The official jobless total, announced today, is 3,070,621. It means one in eight people is out of work.

Rates of unemployment vary across the country - in Northern Ireland it is nearly 20% and 15 or 16% in most parts of Scotland the North East and North West - only in the South East does it drop below 10%.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was given a rough ride when she tried to defend the government's record on employment in the Commons this afternoon.

Mrs Thatcher was frequently heckled as she insisted there were "encouraging signs" the economy was improving. The Speaker was forced to intervene and call for order.


"There are 32 people chasing every vacancy"

Labour leader Michael Foot

Afterwards, Labour leader, Michael Foot, said: "When Mrs Thatcher came into office there were five people chasing each job and that was bad enough. Today there are 32 people chasing every vacancy and in some parts of the country, it's double that."

More than 750,000 people are now classed as longterm unemployed.

Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit did not appear to be offering any quick fixes when he said: "We are gradually fighting back in competitive terms against our rivals. As we can expand the economy so there will be more jobs available in the future."

The level of unemployment in Britain is almost the highest in Europe - second only to Belgium.

The two main factors behind the rise in the jobless total are the economic recession and the restructuring of industry.

In cities like Coventry, workers are being made redundant by the closure of traditional manufacturing industries. The British Leyland factory making MGs closed 15 months ago, putting 700 people out of work.

After 21 years working for MG, Eddie McAvinue is now looking after his grandchildren. He says he felt bitter to start with - but not any more: "When I look round and there's young people with A and O levels and they can't get jobs, I just accept it now. I can't do anything else"

In Context
Unemployment had been steadily rising for years.

It topped the one million mark in 1972, dropped back briefly in 1975, but otherwise continued upwards unchecked.

Mass unemployment was a feature of the late 1970s and early 1980s - the people out of work became known as "Maggie's millions".

Unemployment blighted many traditional industrial communities as companies set about restructuring and modernising their businesses.

For many young people it was impossible to find work. There were sporadic outbreaks of violence such as the riots in Toxteth, Liverpool, in July 1981, which many felt were partly to blame on the high level of unemployment in the area.


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