Mature-age Workers

(Question Without Notice, 13 November 2013, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is to the Treasurer and the Minister for Industrial Relations. Given work participation rates for 50- to 69-year-olds are at 62 per cent and for women aged between 55 and 64 years they are as low as 53.8 per cent, how would the Treasurer encourage employers to hire mature-age workers who want to contribute to the workforce, such as mothers and carers, including through payroll tax rebates similar to those offered to employers for hiring a person with a disability?

Mr Mike Baird: I thank the member for his question. Members of the Opposition, that is how you do it. That is a sensible and substantial question about policy.

The Speaker: Order! I direct the member for Keira to remove himself from the Chamber until the conclusion of question time.

[Pursuant to sessional order the member for Keira left the Chamber at 3.10 p.m.]

Mr MIKE BAIRD: Yes, we do prefer Shane Mallard, but I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Sydney and the sensible approach he has taken to policy. It is a good question, because the Government wants to encourage more people to work, as we articulated in our strategy for Western Sydney. That is exactly what we have done since we came to power: close to 100,000 new jobs have been created in Sydney and New South Wales since the O'Farrell Government was elected. Increasing female participation in the workforce requires a two-pronged approach: grow the broad economy, because that is how to create more jobs and more opportunities; and provide a flexible workplace. Mothers and carers need flexible workplaces, and part-time work is a key part of that. A bigger economy means more jobs.

We are confident that as the economy recovers there will be movement in job creation. We remember the 16 years under those opposite; they were not good. We have come from a position of inheriting the lowest jobs growth in the country and the lowest economic growth in the country, yet we have started to make significant movement. New South Wales is now just behind Western Australia for jobs growth and just behind Queensland for economic growth. Those are positive indicators that things are starting to move. Unlike those opposite, we look at the trends and not the individual statistics.

There is a trend in the participation rate for older workers, which is encouraging. The participation rate has grown from 33.3 per cent in June 2011, just after we were elected to government, to 34.3 per cent in June 2013. That is quite a large shift in the participation rate, and I am advised that it was driven by female participation. There is increased female participation for the older age bracket that the member asked about. The mature women participation rate—for those aged 55 and over—grew from 26.4 per cent in June 2011 to 27.7 per cent in June 2013. The participation rate has gone up, which has encouraged others to seek work and boosted their opportunity for finding jobs. In addition, the female under-employment rate has reduced under our Government and is 0.7 of a percentage point lower than it was under Labor. There has been some movement in those indicators, although I acknowledge the need to continue that trend.

How do we get the economy going? While we are trying to control our budget, we are also trying to invest in drivers of the economy. That is why we have purposely invested in infrastructure, including the $60 billion spend that will create many jobs over the next four years. We have also put money into housing. The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure is overseeing legislation to encourage housing investment, and all indicators show that the New South Wales housing sector, after a long period of lagging, is moving. That will bring significant jobs and a multiplier effect across the broad economy.

We are also trying to make New South Wales a competitive place to do business. We have increased payroll tax thresholds and we have a jobs action plan. We are doing everything we can to drive the economy forward and encourage businesses to employ workers. An important statistic came out today on business confidence. Business confidence in New South Wales is the second highest in the nation and well above the decade average. Consumer confidence in New South Wales is the highest in the nation; I am sure all members of the House are pleased about that. The latest ANZ report states:

      The economic outlook for NSW remains upbeat, with the pieces falling into place for a sustained improvement in economic growth after a decade of underperformance.


To borrow someone else's words, we have more to do, but trends moving in the right direction. New South Wales is definitely moving again.