The casualties of industry closures

CEO Social Justice Blog

Many people will feel sad that the Australian icon, the Holden motorcar, will no longer be assembled in Australia. In the past the Holden has, in many ways, been the symbol of the typical next door neighbour.

Many people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure, as they did in Newcastle when the steelworks closed in the late 1990s. Prime Minister Abbott has asserted, as have Prime Ministers before him, that as we lose jobs offshore they will be replaced by new jobs in emerging industries.

Mr Abbott has pointed to Newcastle as a region which has made a successful transition.

Indeed Newcastle today has a much more diversified economy that we had in the 1990s. But many people who lost their jobs in that era have never worked since. In the late 1990s Samaritans hosted some support groups for older men who had been retrenched from their manufacturing role.

I remember attending a graduation of volunteer support group leaders who announced to us that they needed to accept that if you are unemployed and in your 50s, you needed to find meaning in your life outside the paid workforce. In other words they gave themselves no hope of finding paid work if they had already turned 50. What a waste this was of human potential. Often these men did not appear in unemployment statistics in situations when, for example, their spouse found a part time job.These men just disappeared into early retirement; some coped well, others did not.

The closure of Australian car making will bring similar casualties.