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Retail workers' myth busting: Retail is a career

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Official figures from Statistics New Zealand show there are a whopping 17,900 people working in retail on the minimum wage (according to the latest figures available for the June 2018 quarter). Out of all industries, 71,500 people were paid the minimum wage of $16.50 for that same quarter.

FIRST Union member’s Worth It campaign has also revealed a survey that sits in stark contrast to popular beliefs about the industry. It’s commonly considered to be a stepping-stone to other careers but many people who work in retail don’t see it that way.

The survey shows that a majority of respondents who work in retail consider it a career (67.59%) and that a majority of respondents (58.04%) had been in the industry for more than seven years.

The survey of retail workers across the country had a total of 1,759 respondents.

FIRST Union Organiser, Robin Wilson-Whiting says the figures confirm that many people find retail to be a rewarding, skilled and responsible career.

"The reality is that retail is a skilled career and it’s often not a temporary job. It is often a job held by those with very high customer service skills and product knowledge. It’s also often a job that is one of the major sources of incomes for many households."

Ms Wilson Whiting says the industry is waking up to retail workers’ demands for living wages, decent hours of work and skill recognition with several major companies taking on Living Wage policies but the figures show there is still a long way to go.

"People working in retail should be valued for the skills and experience they provide. They need to be treated with autonomy and respect for their knowledge and relentless positive work attitude with customers despite many employers treating them like minions. People working in retail need enough hours to live off and to be paid at least living wages to ensure they can keep up with life’s demands. We know the lowest paying companies have the profits to solve this."

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