Pensioners working a real win | Garth Parker speaks with the CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra

Gareth Parker Breakfast program courtesy of 6PR.

Automated transcript

I want to know if pensioners want to work retail 133 82. We’ve talked about the ability of pensioners to earn a few extra dollars without being punished by the withdrawal of their pension. As a way to try and plug some of the skills gaps that are right across the economy. It was Gina Rinehart who’s been talking about this in a moment, I’m going to talk to Paul Zahra. He is the chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association Jane is in Midland. Hi, Jane. What do you think?

Oh, hi. How are you going? I just wanted to make a comment. I may be slightly to the left of your subject, but I’m in a position where, you know, I work in a specialist area a couple of days a week and have been looking at doing a couple of extra days somewhere else. But because of the tax free threshold that there is on the second job, the no tax free threshold, it worked out that I’d be working for about $12 an hour in that second job. And I just think it would be a great idea if they cut the no tax free threshold, maybe for 6 to 12 months, to allow people like me to go and work in a second job somewhere.

You do get that money back at the end of the year in your normal way, even if you’re getting taxed at a higher rate on the second job. Jane So you know, it’s not like you get taxed extra for a second job. No, I understand that. But if you’re doing it to add to your weekly, you know, to benefit you on a weekly basis, even for people that are a little bit closer to retirement than me, I just think that if it’s all going to work out after 12 or eight months, why don’t you put your tax in? I can’t see why there’s some sort of system that doesn’t allow you to do that early now. Fair enough. Thank you, Jane. Good thought. 7:18

On the line. The CEO of the Retailers Association, Paul Zahra. G’day, Paul. Good morning. What do you think? What’s your you’re on board with this proposal to allow pensioners to do a bit more work? Well, absolutely. We’re looking at all sorts of ways to fill the significant vacancies we have in the retail industry. In fact, there’s just over 40,000 vacancies in the retail industry alone and it’s about 40% up since February. And we’re looking at all sorts of avenues and I think if we take the pensioner conversation that we’re having, what we’re saying is that we want pensioners to be able to work more than a day a week before their pension is actually docked. And this is really important, particularly growth in actual regional locations where you’ve got a lot of people that are in retirement and you know, some stores, cafes can’t even open on certain days. And you know, if a pensioner was able to fill that role, a mature aged person without their pension being impacted, then we could mobilise a workforce that’s already in the country.

Paul, can I ask you this? Do you think that employers are really willing to hire older people? I know they say that they are, but I get so much correspondence from listeners to this programme who say, yeah, well, how about they start hiring us? I’m 58 or I’m 62 or whatever, and try getting a callback. When you put in for a job, no one’s interested.

Well, look, that’s probably where my age is. I’ll jump in there. Look, I think the world has changed. There’s no doubt coming out of post pandemic, there’s less option for businesses generally. And I think if that was a sentiment, I don’t think it’s been held by every business, by the way, but there would be some businesses that would think that. But we are really, desperate. We’ve got these vacancies.

We’ve, you know, we’ve come out of really strong trading performance. The only thing that’s actually holding us back is the lack of labour to do these jobs. So we know there’s a lot of professionals that have gone into retirement that may want a career in retail. Not so much a career, but a job in retail. Yeah, just to supplement, you know, their lifestyle, but equally just to be out in the community. So we think it’s a real win It’s something that certainly taking to the job summit this week to reinforce the importance of us mobilising this workforce and let pensioners decide whether they want to take on extra work or not.

Paul, 40,000 workers short in retail. Where do you think they’ve all gone? Well, look, I think there’s no doubt through the pandemic, we had mass exodus from the country because people that international students and visitors couldn’t earn jobseeker or JobKeeper And that meant that the only way for them to survive was to leave the country. I think it’s a bit of brand damage that’s been done through all the lockdowns that we’ve had. They may have been the right health decisions, but the impact now that we’re suffering is that those people are just not coming back. They’ve got lots of options. The world’s opened up. They’re staying, you know, particularly within Europe and the US and we’re just not seeing them back and we do need them to supplement our workforce. We’ve always relied on, particularly in hospitality, we’ve relied on foreign workers to fill these jobs during the peak times, particularly, and that being our summer.

So make the pitch for retail work to people who might be listening and say, look, I’ve, you know, I’ve done plenty of shopping over the years. Maybe I could work on the other side of the transaction. Why is it a good place to or a good job to do? Look, I think just broadly there’s no doubt most Australians and hospitality have actually started their first job into the hospitality or retail. It does deliver a lot of life skills. I think when you’re dealing with the general public, there’s a lot of skills that you take on through your career.

I think when we’re talking at the mature age and we’re saying those people have got those skills so they can easily step in without a lot of training but just, you know, to be given at least some base information and base training to actually be able to do that. And the beauty about retailers that every day is different, you know, and it’s such a community minded aspect about the work that you do, particularly if you’re working in essential services like supermarkets. Sure That actually provide, you know, that they allow people to put food on their table. Paul, do you think that the jobs summit later this week is actually going to achieve anything or is it just going to be a talkfest? Look. Well, I hope it’s not the latter. I’m really looking forward to attending. I think the it’s shaping up, in my opinion, it’s one of the most significant policy

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