December 9, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Jobs Express in 1981 – unemployed protest

1 min read
Youth unemployment skyrocketed between 1979 and 1983 and hundreds of youth travelled the country on the Jobs Express to highlight their plight

As unemployment rocketed through 1980 and 1981, there were increasing protests organised by the trade union movement and the Labour Party. One was the Jobs Express in 1981 that took hundreds of jobless youth from one city to the next with rallies at each location.

In Birmingham, for example, Ranking Roger and Saxa from The Beat entertained the young unemployed with a concert. The Jobs Express was part of a wider campaign called Jobs for Youth spearheaded by the TUC (Trades Union Congress).

Through 1981, hundreds of young people made their way down to London on the Jobs Express.  This modern day Jarrow March was received positively by most people with even muted criticism from the Tories and Fleet Street.  Some newspapers did sneer that it was all a far left conspiracy and that the youth were being used by extremists, etc.

But there was no doubting that unemployment in the early 80s recession had hit teenagers very hard with the drying up of apprenticeships and factories closing. As the Jobs Express made its way to London, trade unionists – like those pictured below – mucked in to make sandwiches for the youngsters and give them a cheer.

This being 1981, however, it’s not surprising to read in this article that as one group of teens on the Jobs Express came back from a disco, they were set upon by fascists. No further details are given but this was a grim sign of the times.

Article from the Wembley Observer
Article from the Wembley Observer

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