One of every ten workers in Britain is now out of a job, according to new figures showing that unemployment here has again risen to a new postwar high this month.
The official count of jobless Britons is now more than 2.4 million -- 10 percent of the work force and twice the number unemployed when Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took office in May 1979.
The figures do not count an unknown number of other jobless workers who have not registered for unemployment compensation or the more than 800,000 workers in special subsidized employment programs, including 600,000 working only part time at their formerly full-time jobs and compensated for the difference by the government.
Thatcher acknowledged during stormy debate in the House of Commons today that the new unemployment figures "are very tragic."
Over shouts of "do something about it" from the opposition Labor Party benches, she blamed the problem on the world recession and the necessity of ridding British industry of years of "overmanning, restrictive practices and pay increases far in excess of productivity.
"At least as a government we have been dealing with the underlying problems," she argued.
Thatcher's employment secretary, James Prior, said the worst was not yet over. "The forecasts for the next few months [are] pretty grim," he said.
Britain's top business lobbyist, Sir Terence Beckett, director of the Confederation of British Industries, warned that by the end of the year there likely would be 3 million unemployed -- a figure not reached here since the worst of the depression years in the 1930s.
Opposition politicians and labor union leaders again attacked Thatcher's monetarist, survival-of-the-fittest economic policies, blaming them for greatly exacerbating Britain's deep recession. Some union leaders also accused Thatcher of deliberately encouraging the rise in unemployment to frighten workers away from seeking larger pay increases, striking or fighting for union rights.
Electrical Workers Union leader Ken Gill charged Thatcher's policy-makers were using unemployment "to destroy the British labor movement. But in so doing, they are destroying all that is left of British industry."
Speaking for industry, Beckett said, "These figures are demonstration of the seriousness of the recession in which British trade and industry finds itself. They are likely to get worse before an improvement in economic activity brings any hope of enough new jobs to reverse the trend."
Seasonally adjusted for international comparison at 9.3 percent of the labor force, Britain's unemployment rate is now much higher than the United States or Canada (7.4 percent each), West Germany (4.6 percent) or Japan (2.3 percent). It is exceeded among industrial countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development only by Ireland, Italy and Belgium, all above 10 percent.