ABSTRACT

On the eve of the Depression, Australian social policy development had largely stagnated. Few had any protection against this latest and most profound slump in the economic cycle. A number of societies had the beginnings of compulsory unemployment insurance, usually for low-income workers and including Denmark (1907), Britain (1911), the Netherlands (1916), Italy (1919), Austria (1920), Germany (1927) and Poland (1927). A number of these schemes were swamped by the magnitude of the Depression, but they nevertheless provided some buffer against its effects. In addition, different forms of family allowances supplementing wages had also been developed in France, Norway, New Zealand and some states in America.1 By comparison, Australia only had the unemployment insurance scheme operating in Queensland. Designed with seasonal and temporary unemployment in mind, it could not last long in the depths of the Depression. The existing protections of a basic wage and of the aged pension would come under pressure, as would the payments for widows and children in NSW.