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A National Wage Case increase would be a shot in the arm for regional retail workers and their communities, according to new modelling released today by the SDA.

The ACTU is seeking a five per cent increase to the minimum wage for lower income workers including those in retail and fast food jobs.

New modelling by independent think tank Per Capital finds retail wages contribute $302 million per week to the economies of rural, country towns and regional cities, adding up to well over $15.7 billion per year.

The SDA today released a region-by-region breakdown of the economic benefits of retail wages

SDA Newcastle Branch Secretary Barbara Nebart said retail workers in regional economies are feeling huge pressure from rising housing and living costs – while contributing hundreds of millions to their local economies.

A survey of  SDA members found increasing household bills and cost of living is the main concern, followed by high rental and house prices and lack of jobs for younger people. Forty-six per cent of regional SDA members are concerned with the effect of high rental and house prices to the future health and liveability of their local area.

Ms Nebart said, “Retail workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic and this service, along with their massive contribution to the local economy, should be recognised with a meaningful wage rise.

“The pandemic crisis and recent instability has highlighted the critical role of stable, essential jobs and this new report shows retail plays a significant contribution to local economies.

“One of the best and fairest investments for regional communities is increasing the take-home pay of retail and fast food workers and placing more dollars back into household budgets.

“This wage rise needs to happen right now to help with cost of living skyrocketing and a decade of sluggish wage growth.

“Wage increases have failed to keep up with the rising costs of living, including food, housing and childcare, with more pressure on the way. The Federal budget has forecast up to 4.5 per cent inflation over the next year alone.”

Full Retail in the Regions: Strong foundations for a secure future report and local economic contribution report

Media contact: Jane Garcia (Essential) 0455 111 593

Source: Retail in the Regions report Per Capita

  • There are about 420,000 retail workers in rural, country Towns and regional City areas. Rural areas are home to about 200,000 retail workers, country towns 108,000 retail workers and regional cities 111,000 retail workers.
  • The overall weekly retail wage bill for the country is more than 805 million dollars. $78 million dollars per week enters regional cities through retail wages. For country towns this increases to $61 million, and for rural areas, retail wages contribute $163 million per week.
  • The proportion of people working in retail is larger outside of capital cities. In the greater capital cities retail workers make up 9.5% of the total workforce, while in country towns the figure rises to 10.7%.
  • Retail workers outside of capital cities tend to be older, with women in particular spending more of their prime working lives in retail. This has significant implications for their lifetime capacity to earn, save and seek career advancement.
  • Women make up a larger share of the retail workforce nationally, but this increases the more rural one gets. In capital cities, women make up 55% of the retail workforce, but this grows to 60% in rural areas.
  • Retail wages contribute $302 million per week to the economies of rural, country town and regional cities, equating to well over $15.7 billion per year.
  • Due to the demographic makeup of retail workers, who tend to be younger and in lower income categories, the vast majority of this money will be spent very quickly and mostly in the local economy.