Keeping retail alive and progressive post COVID

TL;DR – Do you work in retail and have seen your pay fall since COVID? 

“You are a fresh grad working full-time in retail?!”, was a phrase I kept hearing throughout the six months upon graduation. Even customers expressed their disbelief when they heard that a local university grad chose to work in retail.

I found myself having to explain my situation. I’d been working part-time with the brand since my uni days. Therefore, I decided to take on their offer to go full-time when I graduated. Contrary to popular belief, I enjoyed the retail job and learnt many soft skills while at it. There were opportunities and the brand I worked for had a highly progressive culture.

The job, however, was meant to be a short stint in my plans, as I wanted to pursue my first love – writing.

Nevertheless, there are opportunities for the retail sector to stay bustling and lively for many years to come. Recently, I came across a survey done by the Workers of Singapore on the retail industry and found it relatable, interesting and illuminating.

Half of retail staff surveyed said they earn less than 2.3k

In the survey, 50% of 361 retail workers said they earn below $2300 monthly.

I shall not reveal which side of the fence I was on, but the results look reliable to me. It could also be worth noting that COVID-19 has affected the outlook for retail workers and here’s why.

Firstly, many retail brands have a bonus system that is tied to a sales target. This bonus could amount to 20% of their pay. COVID-19 has cast a pall on the retail sector, causing a significant drop in sales. This greatly affects the salary of retail workers (just imagine if you had a 20% pay cut for a year, ouch right?) and their prospects.

Would having a progressive wage model help attract talent to this sector?

74% of those surveyed think higher wages will be effective

Having higher wages will definitely attract more to the sector, helping the sector stay alive post COVID when the world recovers.

During COVID, retail workers are at a disadvantage as a significant component of their salary is dependent on sales.

How can we safeguard the wages of retail workers then?

62% of those surveyed believe that retail workers will benefit from PWM

I agree with this sentiment. With a Progressive Wage Model, retail workers have the assurance of working towards a higher salary. Hence,  it helps the sector stay progressive and attractive. Staff can be encouraged to improve themselves by taking on more tasks and through upskilling.

The good news is, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad announced that Singapore can expect a PWM for the retail sector.

“The progressive wage model is a policy designed to raise the salaries of low-wage workers by upgrading their skills and increasing their productivity. The scheme started in 2015. If included, the retail sector would be the sixth under the progressive wage model.”

It is with hope that the PWM will be launched to the retail sector soon, to provide retail workers with opportunities in the long haul. I know many of my former colleagues will benefit from PWM and I’m keeping my eyes peeled for future announcements.

How did the pandemic affect Southeast Asia’s online shopping behaviour in 2020?

 

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Catherine Mak

Author Catherine Mak

I love hawker food and coffee.

More posts by Catherine Mak

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