Is it time to force over-55s to look for work?

SHOULD over-55s be forced to look for work?

The Department of Employment has told a national Senate Inquiry into the government's welfare bills that older Australians can no longer expect to be able to "effectively retire" and live off the public purse.

It wrote: "Given the ageing workforce and the fact that most people aged 55 have many potentially productive years ahead of them, it is no longer acceptable for 55-59-year-old jobseekers to effectively retire on Newstart while undertaking a bit of voluntary or part-time work'' 

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The Australian reports that unemployment among those over 50 has increased by 9% in one year.

Its report suggests there is a growing "grey army" of 50,000 who have been unemployed long term.

The piece also quoted Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan who said the department was "completely wrong" in its choice of words.

"People in that age group, more than young people, are desperately seeking employment - often they have mortgages and are still rearing kids,'' she said.

The concerns raised by the Department come as the government attempts to force people under 30 to wait up to six months to receive unemployment benefits after losing work.

Once that waiting period is passed, their payments will be available for a maximum of six months per year as long as they commit 25 hours per week to Work for the Dole initiatives.