The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is supporting calls to allow employment income to be exempt from the Age Pension income test.

With labour shortages continuing to be a major barrier to retail recovery, the ARA believes that mature age workers are critical to resolving retail workforce shortages.

Paul Zahra, CEO, ARA, says that we are in the tightest labour market in more than 50 years and without the usual numbers of overseas workers and students, these gaps won’t be filled using traditional recruitment methods.

“Retail has always been a powerfully diverse employment sector and we need to think more creatively about how we can mobilise new segments of our Australian workforce such as mature age workers and pensioners. 

“We would like to see this as a priority for the Federal government immediately following the election. Should the new government enact this considered change, a new workforce of pensioners can be unlocked and able to choose work that suits them in an economy that desperately needs their efforts.

“We can’t have an economic recovery without a retail recovery and skills shortages along with supply chain challenges are enormous constraints on this segment of our economy. Retailers have been consistent in their calls for a solution to the current labour shortages of international students and other visa holders in the country, formerly key demographics of the retail workforce. To this point, no broad solutions have been suggested, leaving a significant gap in productivity and growth for an already stressed workforce.

“Making changes that exempt employment income from the Age Pension income test going forward would benefit everyone in our economy. It provides pensioners with the opportunity to supplement their income if they wish, retailers with access to a willing and capable workforce to assist amid ever-present labour shortages, and the wider economy with a more empowered pension group that will be mobilised to spend by newfound employment opportunities.”

There are currently more than 29,000 job vacancies in the retail industry, and the convenience and roadside retail sector has been feeling this burden.

Eddy Nader, Managing Director, Nader Petroleum Group (NPG), told C&I that labour shortages are the single biggest challenge being felt by the sector.

With job advertisements going unanswered, Nader has shifted the way the group looks for new employees, and is targeting semi-retired workers, juniors, and parents looking to boost their income.

“Finding enough staff is a big problem for us. It’s a problem industry-wide – you advertise, and you don’t get any applicants, it’s tough,” says Nader.

“But we’ve now employed a few people who are in their 60s who are semi-retired and just want to work one or two days a week.

“We’re also getting a lot of mums, especially for afternoon, evening, early evening work and nightshift – even if they want to do one shift a week, we’re happy to accommodate.

“We’re taking juniors on as well and we have made a commitment to parents that they won’t work past 8.30pm, and we pay them more than McDonald’s so they’re pretty happy with that.”

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