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UK retail's falling job share long-term trend: study

Mar '19
UK retail
Retail’s shrinking share of the UK workforce–which dates back to 2003 and is equivalent to 320,000 missing employee jobs– is starting to hurt job prospects for shop workers despite record employment, according to a new report by the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank focused on improving the living standards of those on low to middle incomes.

The report, titled ‘Sorry, We’re Closed’, says while retailers’ woes have hit the headlines in recent years, the focus should be as much on shop workers as the shops themselves.

It shows that the UK retail sector’s falling employment share is a long-term trend that pre-dates the recent impact of online shopping.

Retail’s share of employee jobs in the United Kingdom has fallen by 12 per cent from 10.8 per cent in 2003 to 9.5 per cent now. The country now has a lower share of workers in wholesale and retail than Germany.

This steady employment share decline has been absorbed by a buoyant labour market. The absolute reduction in retail employee jobs has been small at 28,000 since 2003, compared to a 750,000 fall in manufacturing employee jobs, and has been in the context of a three million overall increase in employment, according to a press release from the think tank.

However, digging into the experiences of individual shop workers shows that this long-term decline has taken a more worrying turn recently. The Foundation’s analysis shows that retail workers now have a higher rate of redundancies than any other sector. Those leaving retail are now also more likely to become unemployed than leavers from any other sector.

The report also finds that ex-retail workers are also staying unemployed for longer than ex-workers from other sectors.

The foundation notes that this increased unemployment risk has been most significant for younger workers, with three in five unemployed ex-retail workers aged under 30, despite barely a third of retail’s workforce being in this age bracket.

Retail continues to be a large low-paying sector, despite a boost in productivity. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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