Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Labour shortages continue to cripple retail industry

The scale of the labour shortage crisis impacting retail continues to worsen with new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing 46,100 job vacancies in retail trade in August – an increase of 5800 or 14.4% compared to May this year.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says while overall job vacancies declined 2.1% since May, retail was one of few industries to record an increase, which is a significant concern for businesses looking to ramp up their workforces for the festive trading season.

“Labour shortages are the number one concern for retail currently with many businesses forced to reduce trading hours in response to worsening staff availability. Unfortunately, this situation is exacerbating during the most critical time of year on the retail calendar – the Christmas trading period,” Mr Zahra said.

“In advance of the holiday shopping surge, retailers have already begun their recruitment drives for tens of thousands of additional Christmas casuals to cope with demand, however with the scale of the labour crisis getting worse for retail, it’s unlikely that businesses will be able to fill all the roles they have available to trade at their full potential.”

“The job vacancy figures released today align with the experiences of our ARA members, with over 90% saying labour shortages have stayed the same or gotten worse for their businesses over the past three months,” he said.

“Also concerning is that job vacancies in transport, postal and warehousing have increased 16.4% in the three months to August, while vacancies in accommodation and food services have also increased 13.9%.”

“We had some quick wins out of the Jobs and Skills Summit, including an increase to Australia’s skilled migration cap, funding to speed up visa processing times, and the ability for pensioners to work more shifts without their entitlements being affected. However, the benefits of these initiatives won’t be immediate,” Mr Zahra said.

“We also acknowledge the Federal Government’s commitment to an Employment White Paper, with the terms of reference released today. However, with this report not due to be released until the second half of next year, we remain concerned this will unnecessarily prolong Australia’s jobs and skills crisis when immediate action is desperately needed.”

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