Older Jobless Men Are Out On A Limb
by Kate Hannon The Courier-Mail Wednesday, August 16th, 2000

FOR men, losing a job after 35 years of work is like losing a limb, a report has found.

The parliamentary report Age Counts, released yesterday, says employers and older workers — especially men — need to change their attitudes towards unemployment and mature age.

It said 63% of unemployed people who had given up looking for work were over 45.

The report makes 38 recommendations to the Federal Government, including the funding of training, small business advice, computer and literacy teaching and transport costs for the unemployed.

Parliament's cross-party standing committee on employment, education and workplace relations found workers over 45 were often pigeonholed by Centrelink and job agencies. They were mostly men living outside capital cities, who found themselves suddenly retrenched after 30 years.

"Losing a job at the age of 50, after 35 years continuously in the workforce, is a major life event. It is in the same category as losing a limb," committee chairman Brendan Nelson said.

A spokesman for Employment Minister Peter Reith said the Government would consider the report's recommendations.

Dr Nelson, a NSW Liberal backbencher, said superannuation laws needed to change to allow those unemployed who were aged over 60 limited access to their superannuation for up to six months. This would help people with commitments like mortgage payments.

"The last thing you want if you have dependent teenage children and increasingly dependent ageing parents at the other end is to lose your job and then find that you're also likely to lose your house," Dr Nelson said.

The inquiry found many older men shied away from casual or part-time work, believing it to be "beneath them".

The report also recommended:

Labor members of the committee wanted regulations to force businesses to act, but the committee's Government majority wanted a voluntary code of conduct.

Dr Nelson said the study had found discrimination against older workers was worst in the legal, finance and banking sectors. Older workers faced less prejudice in information technology jobs, but were better off in the health, education and community services sectors.

Committee deputy chair man and South Australian Labor backbencher Rod Sawford said the public needed educating about the mature-age unemployed, who were virtually invisible amid the formal statistics.