Workforce crisis: 40,300 retail jobs vacant across Australia

As the country grapples with a crippling labour crisis, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show there were more than 40,300 vacant jobs in the retail sector in May.

This is an increase of 11,200 vacancies – or 38.5 per cent – compared to February last year. Despite inflationary pressures, retail sales surged 10.4 per cent in May year-on-year.

Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, said the retail trade recorded the highest increase of any industry signalling urgent action must be taken by the federal and state governments.

“The figures released today confirm what many retailers are experiencing. They simply can’t get enough staff, be it in frontline roles or specialist positions in data and technology, which is severely impacting their ability to trade at their full potential.

“Exacerbated by overseas and student workers missing from our economy, staff shortages along with rising business costs related to leasing, fuel, energy and supply chains, is pushing many small businesses to the brink.”

Despite successfully manoeuvring through Covid lockdowns, many foreign workers no longer see the country as an “attractive option” to live or work, said Zahra.

He stressed that reducing red tape around immigration will enable more skilled foreign workers and international students to work and an exemption in the age pension income test will mobilise a cohort of pensioners to be employed.

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