"In England they are called the Unemployed. They are waiting to get their dole from the labour bureau"
Men eating at a soup kitchen during the Great Depression in Canada
Public DomainMen eating at a soup kitchen during the Great Depression in Canada - Credit: unknown

Unemployment was a major problem in Britain from the end of the First World War onwards, and was at its peak in the early 1930s following the onset of the global economic recession known as the Great Depression.

In Britain, the hardest hit areas in terms of unemployment were those such as South Wales, Northern England and central Scotland, which relied on heavy industries like coalmining, steel manufacture and shipbuilding. For example, 30% of the workforce of Glasgow were unemployed in 1933.

Dole was the informal term for unemployment benefit. A compulsory National Unemployment Scheme, whereby employees made weekly insurance contributions, had been instigated during the Liberal Welfare Reforms (1906-1914). Further unemployment Insurance Acts were then passed during the 1920s and early 1930s to deal with the problems arising from the mass unemployment of that period.

Labour Exchanges (offices where employers could advertise jobs and the unemployed could search for jobs) were established from 1909 onwards following the Labour Exchanges Act. Similar offices known as labour bureaux had existed following legislation passed in 1902.