Illawarra blue collar workers are less likely to land a new job the older they get, a leading academic said on Monday, as debate raged over hints the federal government plans to lift the retirement age to 70.
University of Wollongong economist Dr Martin O'Brien said workers over 50 who lost their jobs were less successful obtaining new employment because of the Illawarra's depressed labour market.
Older workers employed in traditional Illawarra sectors such as mining, the steelworks or factory work, struggled to find work because of the region's shift to more service-based sectors.
Dr O'Brien's study on redundant BlueScope workers from 2011 revealed last year 50 per cent of employees aged above 50 had not found a job 18 months after their redundancy.
Some 83 per cent of those surveyed cited age as a barrier to finding a job.
Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said the federal government needed to address discrimination towards those wanting to work until or beyond the pension age.
"First, ensure people can continue to keep working if they wish or need to," Ms Ryan said.
In addition to age discrimination, one third of workers surveyed, all aged over 45, believed they did not have the skills or training for new work.
"The types of skills workers were left with weren't skills for employment in growth areas," Dr O'Brien said.
"They are exiting the industries that are in decline."
The economist said the potential increase in pension age would not affect younger job-seekers because often they would not replace retirees.
Nicky Sloan, chief executive of the Illawarra Forum, the region's peak body for community services, said if the pension age increased, older workers would need retraining.
"There's going to be a need for new programs aimed at older workers to train them for a career change," she said.