January 24

History Forum w/ Dr. Sumner La Croix

“South Australia’s Relief Employment Program for Assisted Immigrants: Promises and Reality, 1838-1843”
Dr. Sumner La Croix, Emeritus Professor, Economics Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Friday, January 24, 2020 | 12:30pm-2:00pm | Sakamaki A201

Great Britain established the new colony of South Australia (SA) in 1834, requiring that revenues from colonial land sales be used to subsidize passage for migrants to the colony. Between November 1836 and December 1840, over 15,000 assisted migrants came to SA. Their immigration contract required that the SA government provide emigrants who could not find work with employment on public works. This was a unique relief employment system, standing out as an exception in the British world to the New Poor Law of the 1830s and the common European provision of meager relief during the troubling decades of the 1830s and 1840s. Dr. Edwyna Harris (Monash University) and La Croix use new data on the compensation of unemployed workers and private-sector workers to examine how the SA unemployment system functioned before and after the onset of a major financial crisis in August 1840. We conclude that cuts in unemployment relief in July 1841 markedly changed incentives for workers on relief employment to seek work on newly opened rural farms and sheep stations.