Sydney (Australia), June 29: A survey report from Australia's peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has shown that Australia's labor market is continuing to throw large and small retailers into crisis.
The online survey, conducted in the month of June, included responses from more than 100 retailers representing thousands of small to large businesses nationwide.
The results showed that 61 percent of retail businesses believed labor shortages had gotten worse or much worse in the last three months, with none saying the situation had improved.
According to the survey, 84 percent of retailers said it was becoming much harder to find and recruit new workers, with just over half saying absenteeism was on the rise.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the labor and skill crisis, which comes amid Australia's tightest labor market in over 50 years, urgently needs to be addressed.
"Retail businesses are fundamental to Australia's economy and our daily lives, and they simply can't get enough staff. This has been an issue through the pandemic which has intensified this year and what's worrying is that things are not getting any better," said Zahra.
Australia's unemployment rate sits at a historically low level, just 3.9 percent of Australians were unemployed as of the May Australian Bureau of Statistics update, the lowest level since 1974.
This pressure has been further intensified due to high rates of absenteeism due to COVID-19 and flu infection.
The ARA called on the government to reduce red tape around allowing foreign workers to enter the country, allowing retired Australians to work without impacting their pension, and engage Australian minority groups from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds by providing training programs.
"We are competing globally for talent, and unfortunately our reputation has been damaged because of the lockdowns, meaning we are not the attractive option we once were for foreign workers," said Zahra, citing that Australia would need to make moves to incentivize foreign talent.
"Without government intervention, the labor and skills crisis will only deteriorate further and push some businesses to the brink. You cannot have an economic recovery without a retail recovery, and this is also a major handbrake on growth and productivity," said Zahra.