Shopping is no doubt one of my favourite sports (Note: I consider it a sport because after shopping for a day, my legs ache as much as jogging 4 kilometres). And reading this (refer to original article here) wasn’t all that pleasant:

“According to the study, 58.5% of respondents believe customer service has declined in the last five years, while only 17.4% say it has improved.”  - By Michelle Hammond from SmartCompany

From 2006 census data, we understand that retail trade is the largest industry by employment with over a million (1,033,192) people involved. That’s almost a ninth of people who are employed!

Among them, 577, 501 people are at the forefront of sales. That’s approximately half the number of people working in the industry! And this number is likely to increase with retail trade blossoming slowly but surely each year (refer to retail turnover statistics here).

However, the irony is that while people like me are willing to spend more money in the retail industry, we are getting less quality service. And much of this, according to the same survey, stems from “poor staff attitudes, problems with overseas call centres, and a lack of professionalism and product knowledge” by young workers in particular. This leads me to wonder: How young is our workforce?

After rummaging through the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website, I managed to find some interesting data. It is estimated that over 700,000 of our workforce in August 2011 are barely 20 years old (They are between 15 and 19)! That’s approximately half (47%) of the population of persons between 15 and 19 (view the full “Labour Force” report here).

From 2006 census data, most young workers between ages 15 and 24 seem to congregate in the retail trade sector.


Not only so, compared to all industries, retail trade has a pretty young workforce, with  the majority of workers coming from the 15 to 24 age group.

Thus, it is not without truth when the article claims that our young workers, though supposedly more educated these days, are the problem of poor customer service because they not getting enough training. But is this young retail workforce a current trend? Unlikely. It is well-known that most youths choose to work in retail only because it is one of the easiest industries to get into and earn some pocket money. Since young workers have dominated the industry for so long, could it be that our consumers’ attitudes have changed and we expect more than before? We’ll never know this from statistics so why don’t you tell us what you think today?

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Rebecca is from Singapore and is studying Marketing and Communications at Melbourne University. We call her ou...

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