DESPITE being members of the ''lucky'' generation, a significant proportion of baby boomers are involuntary early retirees, a survey shows.

One in five members of the baby boom generation - aged 45 to 64 in 2008 - who are not working have been forced out, or are held back by disabilities or carer duties. But they might be happy to get a job if provided with the right support.

The research, for the Brotherhood of St Laurence, a welfare and employment agency, shows involuntary joblessness among baby boomers soars to more than 44 per cent of men aged 45 to 54 who are not in paid work.

In addition, just over a quarter of women aged 45 to 54 who are not in jobs are potential workers. Even among men aged 60 to 64, about 12 per cent are involuntarily out of the workforce.

Justine McNamara, principal research fellow at the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, which conducted the study, said: ''This is a substantial minority, and it would be worthwhile to look further into the reasons why so many are out of work who want to be in work.''

The federal government targeted jobless mature-age workers for extra help as part of its skills and welfare measures announced in last week's budget.

Mature-age job seekers unemployed for two years or more will be eligible for new employer wage subsidies of about $6000 for six months. And the government will establish a federal age discrimination commissioner.

The Brotherhood's general manager of public affairs, Nicola Ballenden, said those in their late 40s and 50s faced their last chance to build some assets before they reached old age.

The Brotherhood's experience showed both mature age job seekers and employers who hired them in work experience programs benefited from intensive support from an outside agency to sort out any issues.

''What's most important is that jobseekers know there's a real job at the end of the process and they're not being churned through a work experience program that leads nowhere,'' Ms Ballenden said.

The study shows a striking number of Australians are not in paid work just before the once-standard retirement age of 65. Nearly 60 per cent of people aged 60 to 64 are not in paid jobs, including over 50 per cent of men. However, those baby boomer men still working put in long hours: over half aged 45 to 64 do more than 40 hours a week and more than 30 per cent do 50-plus hours. Yet among baby boomers who work part time, nearly a quarter want more hours.

Baby boomers not in paid work tended to live in disadvantaged suburbs, to be less well-educated, and to have more long-term health problems than the workers. The involuntarily retired tended to be renters and more reliant on government benefits.

Based on a sample of almost 4000 Australians aged 45 to 64, the study includes in its definition of ''voluntarily out of work'' those who said they did not want or need a job or were not interested, or described their main activity as a leisure pursuit or study. The involuntarily jobless included those who wanted a job, as well as those who might want a job but for illness or caring responsibilities.

Article from the Sydney Morning Herald (

For more information on the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, click here.