High youth unemployment rate reinforces message

Peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is strongly concerned for the future of Australian retail workers as youth unemployment hits an 11-year low and unions continue to fight to remove junior wage rates.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said figures released today by the ABS show that the youth (those aged 15-24) unemployment rate increased in October by 0.3 percentage points to 13.0 percent – its highest rate recorded since June 2002.

“The ARA has been concerned about junior employment for some time now, and has been working alongside the government to ensure young retail workers have the same career opportunities as adults.

“The ARA strongly opposes the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) case to remove junior rates for 20 year olds. Not only would a junior wage increase hit retailers financially, but it would also change the face of employment for 20 year olds.

“Retailers and young Australians have been reliant on pay rates to enable retail to bring on low-skilled young staff and increase their skill levels. If the case made by SDA is successful, young employees will find it extremely difficult to find vital training and development opportunities.

“The inflexibility in wage costs has already forced some retailers to become unviable or not open on peak trading days such as Sunday and any changes to junior wage rates will further impact already struggling retailers.

“Retailers are also concerned that if the change to 20-year old wage rates proposed by the SDA is passed, it could escalate and we’d see changes to the wage rates for 18 and 19-year olds too. These changes would not only be detrimental to Australian retailers but would in turn limit the employment opportunities to these young Australians.

“Today’s announcement that youth unemployment is extremely high only reinforces the importance of junior wage rates to the success of the retail sector,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Source: Australian Retailers Association (ARA)