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Improving progression rates for young retail workers

New Fabian Society research commissioned by the TUC finds two in five retail workers are still stuck in low-paid work after a decade.



A new report, Pathways to Progression: improving progression rates for young retail workers – written by the Fabian Society for the TUC – looks at low-paid employees in 2001-2004 and again in 2014-2016. It finds that retail is the worst industry for pay and progression and that a generation of young people risk being stuck in low-paid work.

Out of people on low pay in 2001-2004, two in five (42 per cent) who worked in retail were still stuck in low-paid work a decade later. This is followed by administration (where 40 per cent were still in low-paid work after 10 years) and transport and logistics (35 per cent).

Across the economy as a whole, 9 out of 10 low-paid teenagers in 2001-2004 escaped low pay by their late 20s (2014-2016). But in contrast more than a quarter (27 per cent) of employees the same age in retail had not escaped low pay over that period.

Our new research estimates that just over half a million workers aged between 18 and 29 are currently working in low-paid retail work. Median pay for young workers in the sector is £8.42 an hour – lower than the median wage across the economy for workers aged 18-29 (£9.88) and substantially lower than median pay for the population as a whole (£12.18).

Without government and employer intervention, a generation of young workers risk being stuck in low-paid retail work with little hope of advancement.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

Today’s report shows that despite rising employment, too many people in are trapped in low-paid work for years on end.

It’s particularly concerning to see such poor progression in industries like retail and administration, where huge swathes of young people put their first toe on the career ladder.

Unless we boost opportunities and pay we risk losing a generation of young workers to dead-end jobs on low pay with no hope of any career progression.

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said:

Progression opportunities for the average retail worker are few and far between. Retail is now right at the bottom of the pay and progression league tables, and the sector has developed a reputation as a place where people get stuck rather than get on.

This new Fabian Society research shows that improving pay and progression for retail workers can help companies by increasing retention, broadening the pool of talent and improving productivity. The retail sector must come together with the government on an industrial strategy with good jobs at its heart.

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