by Phil Duncan
There used to be a sort of joke in the 1960s that the prime minister, Keith Holyoake, knew the names of all the unemployed. I say sort of joke because it may well have been true. And it wasn’t because he had the snoops spying on people out of work. It was because hardly anyone was unemployed.
Hard to believe now, but during the long postwar boom from the late 1940s to the early 1970s that was actually the case. Of course, there was also a certain falseness about it because married women out of work couldn’t register as unemployed and, indeed, for a chunk of that era, the dominant capitalist ideology said that married women with children, especially small children, weren’t really supposed to be in paid employment outside the home. One wage – typically that of the husband/father – was supposed to be sufficient to maintain a family of four, five or even more. (The state also helped out with a universal child benefit.)
From boom to bust
Not only was unemployment negligible, there was an ongoing shortage of labour. To meet the needs of an ever-expanding economy, Maori were drawn from rural areas into the cities, workers and their families were drawn from the Read the rest of this entry »