Retail groups and businesses have proposed a variety of priorities in addressing skills and labour shortages – and some solutions – at the two-day Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.
Addressing the summit, Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said the current labour crisis provides an opportunity “to make a powerful shift” towards a safer, fairer and more productive workplace.
“Retail is often overlooked in government programs around skills, training and traineeships. It’s critical we don’t waste this opportunity and [that we] commit ourselves to bold reforms that will accelerate Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”
Starting with increasing skilled migration, Zahra said Covid has created “enormous shifts” in the retail industry leaving gaps in the labour market for frontline roles and skilled labour.
To manage this disruption, he advocates the inclusion of a broader range of Australians – especially pensioners and teenage workers – who can work limited hours on weekends or holidays to compensate for the staffing gaps.
Zahra also highlighted the importance of women’s workforce participation at the summit stressing that Australia has the second highest childcare costs in the world.
“Solving childcare in this country isn’t just a social issue – it’s an economic reform that would unleash the potential of return-to-work parents.”
Lastly, he welcomed the government’s commitment to introduce tax incentives worth more than $1.5 billion later this year which will help small businesses keep up with innovation and reform during this crucial period.
“With so many Australians starting their working life in retail or hospitality, our sector also has an important role to play in setting expectations about fair and equitable work relationships that we hope remains a benchmark through someone’s entire career.”