Twenty per cent of retail workers feel financially stressed, study finds

Financial stress impacts one in five retail workers, making it one of Australia’s most stressed industries, according to AMP’s Financial Wellness report released on Monday.

While this puts retail above the national average of 19 per cent, the number of retail workers feeling financially stressed has dropped 4 per cent since 2016.

“It’s positive we are seeing financial stress decline in Australia’s retail trade industry, but we still have a long way to go,” Ilaine Anderson, AMP’s director of workplace super, said.

Anderson noted that money worries are not just a personal issue; research shows they impact absenteeism and productivity in the workplace.

According to the AMP study, people under financial pressure take an extra 2.4 sick days per year and spend almost an hour per week dealing with money problems at work. This costs Australia businesses an estimated $31.1 billion per year in lost revenue.

Anderson urged businesses to play a role in improving their employees’ financial well-being through education and flexible work policies.

“The research found flexible working hours and the ability to work from home improved employee performance, engagement and financial wellness,” she said.

Anderson added that reducing the stigma around financial stress is also important, as many of those surveyed cited embarrassment and guilt as a major reason for not tackling their financial woes.

“We need to make sure talking money isn’t seen as taboo and implement financial literacy campaigns within our businesses to help employees achieve their financial goals,” she said.

SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer agreed that financial stress is a major issue for Australian retail workers, but he believes businesses need to go a step further if they want to alleviate it.

“If the business community wants to improve Australia’s economy and alleviate financial stress for working Australians, it needs to support policies that put money back into working people’s pockets, not take it out,” he told IR.

“After having already received two cuts to weekend penalty rates in 2017 and 2018, retail workers now face further cuts this year and in 2020.

“In total, these penalty rate cuts will cost retail workers, many whose employment is insecure and low income, between $2,000 and $6,000 a year,” he said.

“This is a pay cut they cannot afford and do not deserve.”

Who is most impacted by financial stress?

AMP’s Financial Wellness Index, which measures how employees perceive their current and future financial situation, found that 5 per cent of Australian workers are severely financially stressed, 14 per cent are moderately financially stressed, 35 per cent are mildly financially stressed and 46 per cent are financially secure.

Brisbane is the most financially stressed city of the five biggest capital cities in Australia, with 25 per cent of workers experiencing financial stress. This is followed by Adelaide (22 per cent), Melbourne (20 per cent), Perth (17 per cent) and Sydney (16 per cent).

Transport, postal and warehousing workers are the most financially stressed of any industry, with 25 per cent of workers experiencing money problems, closely followed by both administrative services and hospitality (24 per cent), financial and insurance workers (21 per cent) and retail and healthcare and social assistance workers (20 per cent).

Single parents and those living in shared accommodation are more affected than other demographic, with 35 per cent and 31 per cent of these groups, respectively, saying they feel financially stressed. Overall, those who earn between $50,000 to $74,999 are the most likely to feel financially stressed. And women are more affected than men, with 24 per cent of women found to be in financial stress, compared to 14 per cent of men.

Nearly half of those who suffer from financial stress at some point in their careers report feeling stressed for an average of 6.5 years or more.

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