The Social Welfare Research Centre held a one-day public seminar on 19th June 1981 on the subject of ‘Unemployment: Causes, Consequences and Policy Implications’. The programme was designed to cover the main areas of the causes of unemployment, the consequences for individuals and for Australian society (specifically in relation to the state of the labour market and the social security system), and to canvass a range of policy implications and responses. Peter Sheehan was invited to analyse the ways in which Australia's economic and political policies over the past decade have shaped and defined the current unemployment situation and to suggest likely future outcomes under alternative policies. Frank Stilwell was asked to locate the Australian situation in an international economic context, to analyse the impact of unemployment in the Australian class structure and to outline some alternative political economic responses. Judith O’Neill agreed to assess some of the implications of unemployment for trade unions and to present preliminary findings of her survey of trade union attitudes and responses to unemployment, outlining the forms of assistance currently available to unemployed union members and unions’ plans for future action. Adam Jamrozik was invited to analyse the consequences of labour market changes for social welfare policies. He asked the question: How do these changes affect the life chances and life styles of various sections of the population? In this introductory paper, I outline the key issues and debates raised in the papers and in the general discussion which concluded the programme.