Retailers welcome a budget strong on social reforms and support for women as testing economic times loom

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the Albanese Government’s first budget for its social reforms, including greater access to child care and paid parental leave, which will help families with the rising cost of living amidst an uncertain global economic outlook.

“The Albanese Government’s first budget has been handed down with a backdrop of increasing global economic uncertainty and growing cost of living pressures. Inflation is forecast to peak at 7.75% later this year and our economy is set to slow to 1.5% growth in 2023-24, highlighting the scale of the challenges that lie ahead for business and all Australians,” said ARA CEO Paul Zahra.

“With many households facing financial stress, we’re pleased to see the cost of living a key focus. The $7.5 billion package which includes cheaper child care and the expansion of paid parental leave will help ease the pressure on families and improve the economic participation of women – a key focus for retail, given the sector has one of the highest percentages of women in its workforce. We commend the Government for embarking on these bold social reforms and for making women and gender equality a budget priority.

“The more immediate challenge for retail is the jobs and skills crisis, which is worsening in our sector with job vacancies at over 46,000 and one of few industries that recorded an increase in vacancies last quarter. We acknowledge the $1 billion agreement to provide 180,000 TAFE and vocational education places in 2023 but seek clarity on how these will target traditional retail skillsets.

“We note that the Government is following through on its commitments out of the Jobs and Skills Summit, including funding to speed up visa processing times, and allowing pensioners to earn more without their entitlements being affected. These are positive measures that the ARA has been advocating for to get more people into the country and to harness the existing talent we have here now.

“Many small businesses are significantly challenged with rising costs, and while we acknowledge the $62.6 million in grants that have been announced to help SMBs become more energy efficient – we would like to have seen more targeted support to help these businesses with cash flow challenges. Continuation of the instant asset write-off and 20 per cent tax deduction boost for small businesses to upskill employees and support the uptake of new technologies will also help improve digital capability and productivity.

“The ARA has welcomed the paid family and domestic violence leave as another important area of social reform. We also advocated for and welcome the $3.4 million over four years to support small businesses to understand and implement this legislation.

“The next great disruptor for the retail sector and the Australian economy is climate change, and we welcome the resilience measures in this budget to help with climate change and disaster preparation, as well as changes to support electric car use by business and the community.

“While the retail sector overall remains resilient, we are cautious about the economic outlook as the impacts of rising interest rates wash through the economy and as households tighten their budgets, which could lead to a slowdown in spending in 2023.

“We commend the Albanese Government on their first budget, however there’s no doubt that challenging times lie ahead with the prospect of a global economic downturn,” Mr Zahra said.

 

Media Enquiries:

M 0434 381 670

E media@retail.org.au

 

About us: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the oldest, largest and most diverse national retail body, representing a $400 billion sector that employs 1.3 million Australians and is the largest private sector employer in the country. As Australia’s peak retail body, representing more than 120,000 retail shop fronts and online stores, the ARA informs, advocates, educates, protects and unifies our independent, national and international retail community. To learn more about ARA’s exclusive member benefits and more, visit retail.org.au

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