Feb 28, 2019
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Shop workers facing highest risk of unemployment - report

Feb 28, 2019

A new report has shed light on the employment crisis threatening the UK retail sector, revealing that shop workers are facing a higher rate of redundancies and stay unemployed for longer than any other sector.

Despite the UK employment rate reaching record high, Resolution Foundation, a think-tank, has found that retail’s shrinking share of the UK workforce is accelerating amid a boost in productivity and higher wages.

The number of wholesale and retail workers employed in the UK is now lower than in Germany, according to Resolution Foundation’s Sorry we’re closed report. Retai’s declining role as an employer has coincided with an overall increase in employment, with the number of people in work in the UK reaching a record high of 32.54 million in January.

But the study found that retail workers now have a higher rate of redundancies than any other sector, and that those leaving retail are more likely to become unemployed than leavers from any other sector (31%, compared to an average across all sectors of 26%).

Further, 41% of ex-retail workers have stayed unemployed for six months or more - the second highest of all sectors. And younger workers have been hardest hit by unemployment, with three in five unemployed ex-retail workers aged under 30, despite this demographic barely making up a third of the sector’s workforce.

“Retailers’ woes have hit the headlines in recent years, but this is an economic and cultural change 15 years in the making. And while big name brands will inevitably grab the spotlight, we need to focus far more on the people and places most affected by the changing face of retail,” commented Daniel Tomlinson, research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation.

“In recent years life has become tougher for those leaving retail, who are more likely to find themselves unemployed – and for longer too.

“So while policy makers can’t reverse major and long-lasting changes in how we shop, they can and should focus on the people and places most affected. Rather than trying to rescue the 20th century model of shop-dominated high streets, town centres have an opportunity to diversify and become 21st century destinations for leisure, as well as retail.”

The study also found that despite a 5% increase in typical real hourly pay in the sector, retail continues to be largely low-paying, with the typical hourly wage in retail almost a third lower than typical wages across the workforce as a whole.

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