Men over 60 will have to look for work or face loss of benefit, under tough new plans drawn up by the Government to get more old people back into jobs.

The proposal is one of a raft of measures to be unveiled today by Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Social Security, to tackle the financial and human cost of unemployment among the over-50s. Mr Darling will call for a radical shift in attitudes to older workers as he outlines plans to save some of the £16bn lost to the economy from early retirement, joblessness and disability.

The controversial move to force men between 60 and 65 to look for work will be sweetened by proposals to introduce careers advice, help with volunteering and legislation banning age discrimination.

Mr Darling will outline the 75 recommendations when he publishes a new report by the Downing Street Performance and Innovation Unit into the growing army of four million over-50s out of work. The report, entitled Winning the Generation Game, follows a year-long study into the problem.

Among the key recommendations are calls to raise the minimum age at which pensions are payable from 50 to 55, to raise the retirement age for the Civil Service from 60 to 65 and to legislate against age discrimination if the current voluntary code of practice fails.

Mr Darling himself will become the Cabinet's "Champion for Older People" and will call on employers to make the most of the skills of staff over 50.

However, it is the proposal to remove income support from men over 60 and place them on Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) that could cause most controversy. At present, those between 60 and 65 are exempt from JSA and are not required to actively look for work in return for income support. The report says the exemption leads to people being "written off".

The measure will back up other tough moves to slash the number of people on incapacity benefit. More than 1.4 million people are on sickness and disability benefits, three times as many as 20 years ago.

The report is critical about those on incapacity benefit, saying its claimants are passive recipients who want to avoid the more rigorous JSA regime.