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Don't ignore talents of over-qualified workers in low-paid sectors, report urges

Published 09/11/2016

The Government is being urged to included the retail sector in its plans for an industrial strategy
The Government is being urged to included the retail sector in its plans for an industrial strategy

Retail workers are "stuck" in low-paid jobs, but their potential is being under-used, according to a report.

The country's 1.5 million retail workers could get better pay and career prospects if the Government included the sector in its plans for an industrial strategy, it was argued.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said its research found that three out of four retail workers have ideas on how to improve productivity.

Retail workers are more likely to be in low-paid jobs a decade after starting, said the report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 workers.

The Government was urged to use this month's Autumn Statement to tackle structural barriers to change in the industry, particularly for part-time workers.

Half of retail workers feel they are over-qualified for their job and a similar number wanted more hours to earn extra money, it was found.

Dave Innes, of JRF, said: "At a time of great pressure in the industry, many retailers are adapting and working with their employees to improve skills and progression.

"There are significant gains to be made if government supports this approach with industry. Low-pay sectors constitute about 23% of the UK economy, but account for around a third of the productivity gap with leading western European economies.

"Industrial strategies overwhelmingly focus on high-value sectors, but for every science park in the economy, we have a retail park. If we are serious about increasing productivity and living standards for everyone, we cannot afford to ignore low-paid sectors, with the talents and potential of so many workers being under-used.

"Boosting pay, progression and productivity could unlock greater growth in the economy, boost business performance and deliver much-needed improvements in the living standards for over a million low-paid retail workers."

Kitty Ussher, of Tooley Street Research, who wrote the report, added: "In retail, people on the lowest rungs of pay say they are already over-qualified for what they do. Instead they are unable to contribute more to their business due to structural factors, unable to show what they can do, unable to get promoted in a way that supports their working hours, and for younger people in particular, lacking the knowledge of how to get on."

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