A lack of international temporary visa holders and international students has seen an 80 per cent rise in job vacancies within the retail trade, from February 2020 to May 2021.

The figures released by the ATO show job vacancies increased from 19,000 to 35,000.

Theo Foukkare, CEO Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), said the petrol and convenience (P&C) channel has felt the full effects of the labour shortage, as the sector remained an essential service throughout the pandemic, and there are currently more than 10,000 job vacancies.

“From talking to members, on average, stores are looking for approximately two staff per store. Now as everything opens up, we have people leaving stores in our channel to go and earn cash working in a kitchen or a pub and they’re earning more with no restrictions on hours.”

Currently the limit of hours that an international student can work per week is capped at 20 in the P&C channel, whereas there has been a temporary relaxation of the cap across a variety of other sectors such as hospitality and agriculture, where it has been raised to 40 hours per week.

This temporary relaxation period is set to end when lockdowns finish.

Foukkare is seeking to extend and broaden the relaxation of the cap to all retail trade including P&C outlets as restrictions ease.

“The labour shortage will be an issue for the next 12 months and we need assistance. Let’s say we have a positive COVID case at a site, that store may potentially have to close down if all the staff have been deemed close contacts. The last thing we want is for retailers to not be able to man their store because they can’t access other staff that haven’t been exposed due to a limit on hours.”

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