The “thaw” which was brought up by the year 1955 evidenced a fact, concealed from the late 1940s, that unemployment could exist also in socialist countries. From the mid-1955 the problem was no longer a taboo subject, and in 1956–1957 it even became a topic of open discussions. And although unemployment of the second half of the fifties was often compared to that before the war, some distinct differences were evident. First of all, there was no a uniform system of support for the unemployed which would provide, for example legal, systematic unemployment compensations. There were also some striking regional differences, for instance Upper Silesia (Górny Śląsk) was facing an acute shortage of labour force, while numerous regions of Central and Eastern Poland, especially small towns and rural areas, had unemployment of structural character (the purpose of the so-called “intervention found” of 1956–1958 was, among others, to create new jobs in backward regions). Contrary to that before the war, unemployment of the 1950s did not affect mainly men and (qualified) workers, but women in the first place and employees with low qualifications. The shared features were the lack of jobs for intellectuals and for young people who were just entering the labour market. A characteristic trait of the “thaw” unemployment was also the necessity to employ many repatriates from the USSR, redundant civil workers of the state administration, functionaries of the security services, the party apparatus and (non-)commissioned officers of the Polish Army. An endemic phenomenon in the scale of the whole post-war period was a temporary return to the idea of legal labour emigration.
Artykuł omawia kwestie bezrobocia, będącego w latach 1956–1957 istotnym i szeroko komentowanym problemem. Tekst skupia się na specyfice i uwarunkowaniach polskiego bezrobocia okresu odwilży (szczególnie w porównaniu z podobnym zjawiskiem w II RP), antagonizmach wpływających na obraz rynku pracy lat 1956–1957 (np. zatrudnianie kobiet, chłoporobotnicy), rozkładzie geograficznym, zwłaszcza sytuacji na peryferiach (głównie w miasteczkach) i próbie jej poprawy przez władze (tzw. fundusz interwencyjny), „bezrobotnych specjalnej troski”, czyli redukowanych urzędnikach administracji państwowej, funkcjonariuszach bezpieczeństwa, aparatu partyjnego i (pod)oficerach Wojska Polskiego. Omówiona została też kwestia legalnej emigracji zarobkowej.