The COVID-19 pandemic caused immeasurable disruption to the Australian retail sector, with profound consequences for retail workers.

When the pandemic hit, workers in essential retail were placed at the front lines of the crisis, with heightened exposure to the virus and anxious customers, while workers in non-essential retail lost jobs and wages as a result of extended lockdowns.

The pandemic also precipitated a rapid adoption of new, contactless technologies, which promise to reshape the retail sector into the future. As lockdown restrictions ease in most parts of Australia, and with the holiday optimism of the Christmas trading season approaching, it is time to closely consider the impacts and pressures of the pandemic on Australian retail workers.

This report highlights this increasing feeling of job insecurity among Australian retail workers and the effect changing customer relationships has had on their sense of safety and wellbeing.

Overall, around half of retail workers agreed that their working hours had been impacted during the pandemic, either to a great extent or somewhat. However, not all groups were impacted equally.

In particular, women, younger workers under 30, those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, frontline workers, casual workers, and those working in a locked-down region felt most affected by reduced hours and job loss.

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