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Pensioners, mature age critical to resolving retail workforce shortages

Australia’s largest retail association is calling on the government to allow employment income to be exempt from the age pension income test to help alleviate the chronic staff shortages across the country.

Pensioners, mature age critical to resolving retail workforce shortages
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With acute labour shortages continuing as a major barrier to retail recovery, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is supporting calls to allow employment income to be exempt from the age pension income test, allowing pensioners to supplement their income and alleviating longstanding staff shortages.

“There are over 29,000 job vacancies in the retail industry. 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,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said.

“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.”

Mr Zahra said the industry association 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,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Zahra stated that making changes that exempt employment income from the age pension income test going forward would provide 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.

“Additionally, those on the aged pension are interested in returning to work from a sense of social duty and responsibility as well. They are a group critical to the fabric of our communities, and this generous sense of social duty should be freely welcomed, rather than significantly constrained by mechanisms such as the Aged Pension income test,” he said.

“We already have existing training programs that would support these individuals to quickly mobilise their skills into frontline retail positions, and with the commitment of many of Australia’s largest retail employers to prioritise this training and employment we could see a solution in place within a few months.”

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