You are currently viewing A hard job to sell: Challenges to attracting retail workers go beyond pay, companies say

A hard job to sell: Challenges to attracting retail workers go beyond pay, companies say

After the PWM announcement, the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) said in a press release that the recommendations are “a step in the right direction to help rebuild retail as an attractive career choice”.

“However, acute labor shortage is a critical issue facing most if not all retail businesses and if not addressed immediately, Singapore will struggle to maintain its reputation. a vibrant shopping and lifestyle destination with superior service delivery,” the association said in a Facebook post.

Companies CNA spoke to said it has always been difficult to find Singaporeans or permanent residents to fill front-line sales roles.

Mr Roland Seah, whose Green Chapter store sells aquarium products, said it was difficult to hire local workers even when he offered a monthly salary of more than S$2,000, which is higher to the base salary of the PWM.

When asked how he solves his labor issues, he said he takes care of the store himself: “We deal with it by working longer…it’s the same problem for all retail businesses. In the end who works? The boss is working.

An additional problem is that workers often leave after a short period, which means he has to keep training new workers, he said.

Other retailers told CNA they already pay above the PWM base salary and also provide training and career paths required by the PWM.

Under the PWM, workers must now complete at least one Workforce Skills Qualifications training module for all job roles under the PWM. TCR has defined front-line operational and supervisory roles in the retail industry to provide a career path for these workers.

Furniture chain Courts said the PWM will not affect its operations because the company already has policies that meet PWM requirements, including training programs to ensure its staff “have the same opportunities to explore different roles and departments”.

“Even during the circuit breaker there was no retrenchment and we made sure that all of our staff were well taken care of, keeping their rice bowls throughout the difficult period,” a doorman said. -word.

Mr Terence Yow, managing director of local shoe retailer Enviably Me, pointed out that the cost of frontline businesses like retail was still high and sales volumes had not returned to pre-COVID levels. . The pandemic has wiped out already thin margins, he added.

“PWM as it is… for small frontline SMEs (it doesn’t have) a significant impact because we face much bigger challenges and our salaries are already, for the vast majority, much higher at (PWM),” he said.

“What worries us much more is whether there is a supply of workers, whether inflation can be brought under control, the costs of logistics, whether we can recover tourism, whether there is going to be a recession, which puts a big damper on consumer confidence, and rental charges, which come back.

He added that to attract and retain workers, he must already offer training, career paths and enough days off, as well as intangible assets such as team building programs.

Aldys Kong, national human resources manager for IKEA Singapore, said the PWM for the retail sector was a welcome move, but admits the furniture chain also faces challenges recruiting and retaining talent.

“Some young workers have a short-term view of working in retail and may overlook the long-term opportunities it offers,” she said.

One way for IKEA to deal with this is to provide flexibility to its employees. IKEA hires a large number of part-time workers, who make up around 40% of its workforce, and permanent part-time workers enjoy the same benefits as full-time staff, Ms Kong said.

This includes paid vacations, medical and insurance benefits, annual health checkups, and seniority awards, among others.

“Our part-time colleagues include mothers, students, re-employed retirees and experienced retail professionals,” she said.

“Some colleagues spend as little as 10 hours a week working at IKEA, while others have to work up to 35 hours a week. We offer seasonal/weekend work options where we hire colleagues during peak seasons or weekends to supplement our existing workforce. »

Labor economist Walter Theseira said that while wages are currently rising due to inflationary pressure, it is unclear whether these market forces alone will lead to retail wages converging with the median wage.

“The purpose of PWM is to target convergence more explicitly, as there is a risk that adjustments to wage inflation will simply allow real wages to stagnate, or even worse, fall,” the professor said. Professor Theseira, from the University of Singapore. of social sciences.

“Of course, PWM is also intended in theory to support this convergence by improving the productivity and skills of workers covered by PWM. But this last task will probably be difficult.

While most of the workers CNA spoke to earn above base salary, there are plenty of advertised jobs offering hourly rates of S$8.

Not everyone will have to join the PWM minimum as it only applies to companies that hire foreign workers. The Tripartite Cluster for the Retail Industry said it expects wages for other local workers in Singapore to catch up to the PWM rate due to market forces.

Professor Assoc Theseira said that the PWM can increase the wages of workers in companies that do not employ foreign workers as long as there is strong competition in the labor market for these workers, and they can easily pass from one PWM job to another.

“There was certainly hope that the introduction of the first PWMs almost a decade ago would trigger a general increase in wages at the bottom of the scale in Singapore, but the need to expand the PWM to cover a higher proportion of low-wage jobs suggests that this competitiveness effect has been quite muted,” he said.

“Obviously, there is a need to cover a much larger fraction of workers for competition to raise the wages of uncovered workers.”

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