Mature Age Unemployed
MATURE AGE UNEMPLOYED
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills) [5.42]: I wish to speak about a matter of grave concern to me and to many others in the community. I refer to the unemployment crisis facing people in my electorate, particularly people of mature age. For some time now I have been aware that many people, when they reach the age of 40, find themselves on the unemployment scrapheap. Although economic conditions and, indeed, the recession have certainly caused some of this unemployment, those factors are not completely responsible for the predicament in which many find themselves. In parts of the Baulkham Hills electorate the situation is so bad that people pretend to go to work and, I suppose because of feelings of guilt and shame, are not prepared to acknowledge that they are unemployed. They carry on the pretence of leaving for work so that the neighbours and others in their areas will not realise that their families have problems.
Mr Nagle: That is very sad.
Mr MERTON: It is very sad. The fact that many of these people are living off savings makes the situation even worse. Savings, of course, do not last for ever. When the savings are finally exhausted, people approach banks seeking loans. However, they have no borrowing capacity because they have no earning capacity to repay loans. That crisis point has hit many families in my electorate, as indeed I suppose it has in other parts of New South Wales and Australia. Unemployment for any individual of any age is tragic and a matter of grave concern. Mature age people who face unemployment for the first time in their lives simply cannot adjust. Many people who previously occupied middle management positions and interviewed applicants for jobs now find that the roles have been reversed and they are the job interviewees.
During the past three years I have endeavoured to speak with staff from the local Home and Community Care Service and other such organisations about what might be done to assist these people. At one stage the Government provided a special one-off allocation to provide an officer to encourage these people to find work, help them with curricula vitae and things of that nature. Many people seeking work visit my electorate office. They need assistance in the preparation of curricula vitae. My secretarial staff and I are only too pleased to assist them in the preparation of those documents. In relation to one man we sent out about 50 applications for employment with a curriculum vitae prepared in my office. I am proud to be involved in the provision of that service to my constituents.
The man to whom I have referred has three or four young children. For the first time in his working career he faces the dilemma and tragedy of unemployment. I am pleased the Premier realises that such unemployment is tragic and is aware of the disaster it can bring to families and the lack of self-esteem it engenders. Unless action is taken now, the damaging long-term consequences will certainly affect the quality of life and financial independence of a major proportion of the population well into the future. The New South Wales mature workers task force has raised concerns that because of the longer life expectancy, mature age people face the prospect of 40 years in retirement.
As I understand it, the Commonwealth Government has no package as far as mature age workers are concerned, whereas the New South Wales Government led by the Premier, John Fahey, has recently announced a package worth $2.25 million to tackle discrimination against mature age people in the work force and to improve job prospects for older workers. Clearly, people with a few years' experience under their belts have assets that money cannot buy. They have experience and the ability that comes with maturity. Those assets give them an advantage when dealing with people. I draw to the attention of every member of this House the dilemma of mature age workers so far as employment prospects are concerned. I know that every member of this House shares my concerns. We should try to make every possible avenue available to these people to enable them to re-enter the work force.