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How does this recession compare to miserable, dark days of the 1980s?

Small business operators with experience of both downturns reach surprisingly similar conclusions, writes Mark Keenan

ON a summer afternoon 27 years ago, a group of suited and booted types crammed into a room in Dublin -- ages varying from 15 to late 50s.

Forty of us were waiting our turn to be interviewed for a job and the first round of interviews would go on all day. We clutched bound CVs and sized one another up. I was interviewed for three minutes by three very serious people sitting behind a table who asked probing questions.

Days later I got a letter that had me elated all day. I'd been called back for the second round. Four days later I did it all over again. This time I figured I had done even better. But the second letter announced I hadn't been successful.

The letter concluded that, in the end, the company just didn't think I was suitable for the position, which carried a good deal of responsibility.

The job? Three nights a week collecting glasses from the tables of O'Neill's pub on Dublin's Mount Street -- at £5 a night. The year was 1985 and the interview suit was polyester. The 1980s meant unemployment of 20pc and you needed to know someone to get a job at McDonald's.

Through the recent boom, every 1980s refugee had a favourite recession tale guaranteed to make their younger colleagues' hair stand on end. If you don't believe or remember, view the 1980s segment of RTE's ever popular 'Reeling In The Years'.

Dublin looking like a bomb hit it; the streets in ruins with dereliction; a population dressed in grey acrylic and polyester; 20-year-old cars; 14pc mortgages; 65pc taxes; homemade haircuts; huge national debt; power cuts; real bread lines; strikes.

And all rolled up in a country that looked like some forgotten, former communist statelet.

Surely this recession, bad that it is, could not be worse than the 1980s?

We asked four small business operators with professional experience of both recessions to relate the differences running a business in each era, and ultimately to choose which one has been worse.

Indo Business