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Press release/statement

New Demos Report Details How Raising Wages and Improving Scheduling for Women in the Retail Industry Would Strengthen the Economy

NEW YORK, NY— A new report by the national public policy organization Demos reveals prevalent business practices in the retail sector such as low pay, erratic scheduling and scarcity of basic benefits are keeping millions of hard-working women and families near poverty.

Because the retail sector is one of the top industries employing women, and projected to add the most jobs in the next decade, Retail’s Choice: How Raising Wages and Improving Schedules for Women in the Retail Industry Would Benefit America aims to shift a crucial debate around gender inequities in the workforce that often focuses solely on female executives to the women holding the lowest paid positions in the most common occupation in America – retail salesperson. The study underscores the significant social and financial costs of the pay gap for workers in retail, estimating wage losses of $40.8 billion annually for women, who not only bear the brunt of the low-wage trend, but still assume much more family care-giving responsibilities than their male counterparts.

“ The nation's large retailers are in a position to improve the lives of millions of America's working women and their families – boosting the national economy and creating jobs while also advancing their own outlook for sales growth,” said Amy Traub, Demos Senior Policy Analyst and report author. “Our research shows how improving scheduling, giving workers the hours they need and raising pay to the modest level of $25,000 a year for full-time work can help women succeed."

Key findings from the report include:

  • 1.3 million women working in the retail industry live in or near poverty
  • Nearly one in every three women working part-time in retail wants full-time employment. The lack of sufficient work hours is worsened by the rise of “just-in-time” scheduling – a practice where employers use scheduling software and measures of consumer demand to match workers’ hours to the projected need for labor on a daily or hourly basis – which prevents women working in retail from having predictable, consistent hours that make it possible to budget effectively, manage childcare and seek other educational and professional opportunities
  • Establishing a new wage floor equivalent to $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round worker at retail companies employing at least 1,000 workers would improve the lives of more than 3.2 million female retail workers; 900,000 women and their families would be directly lifted out of poverty or near poverty
  • GDP would grow an estimated $6.9 to $8.9 billion solely from women’s portion of the raise. Together with an equivalent raise for men, this would lead to the creation of 105,000 to 136,000 new jobs

Building on Demos’ previous study, Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy, this latest report not only illustrates how major retailers can afford better wages and improved scheduling, but also projects a $381 billion loss in cumulative wages and an additional 100,000 women joining the ranks of retail’s working poor should present trends continue.