Job security, youth unemployment and the downturn in the mining industry will be critical issues for Illawarra voters when they go to the polls next Saturday.
Many residents are concerned about the future of the Illawarra's economy, given the slowing of traditional manufacturing, a rise in unemployment and mass job cuts region-wide.
In June, the Illawarra's unemployment level was 15.3 per cent, three times the national average, putting pressure on the major parties to create workable strategies to boost employment.
Leaders of the major parties have come out swinging with plans to create jobs and curb unemployment across the country.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised to create the "new jobs of the future", offering a $35 million training program to help stem the youth unemployment rate, which is at 9.2 per cent nationally.
The program will target 9000 disadvantaged young people, aged between 16 and 24, who either haven't finished school or don't have qualifications in a trade.
Mr Rudd said the program would provide "the stepping stones" for them to gain the skills needed to break into the job market.
The program is likely to be well received by Illawarra youth, particularly in areas like Berkeley and the Shoalhaven, where unemployment among young people is highest.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised the Coalition would provide job security by abolishing the mining tax to encourage reinvestment and growth.
He has also announced plans to tackle long-term unemployment, offering bonuses for people who find and keep jobs.
Under the scheme, long-term unemployed who find and keep a job for two years would receive a $6500 bonus.
People aged 18 to 30 unemployed for 12 months or more, and on social security, would receive a $2500 bonus if they got a job and kept off welfare continuously for 12 months.
Illawarra residents will also be looking at which side of politics can deal with the downturn in the mining industry, given the region's long reputation as a "steel city" and its heavy reliance on traditional mining.
Last week, a leading Illawarra academic told the Mercury the Illawarra could not survive on its traditional manufacturing industries.
Intelligent Polymer Research Institute director Gordon Wallace said the region needed to embrace more high-tech manufacturing methods to create jobs, investment and growth.
BlueScope managing director Paul O'Malley admitted the steelworks would not have survived without making changes to its cost structures, including mass retrenchments at its Port Kembla steelworks in 2011.
The company has just started to turn around financially, posting a lower 2012-13 net loss of $84.1 million, recovering from a $1.04 billion loss a year earlier.
Illawarra miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal reported a $76.6 million loss, according to its latest annual report, but chairman Arun Jagatramka denied the company was in financial trouble.
Illawarra voters will also be keen to hear plans for investment in small businesses.
Many of the region's smaller businesses have suffered from the downturn in other industries as residents continued to rein in their spending.
TODAY'S QUESTION: Unemployment and job security are key concerns for Illawarra voters - how would you address these issues?