In a groundbreaking study that has left economists scratching their heads and shopkeepers locking up their wares, it has been revealed that shoplifting has become more profitable than honest work. Yes, you read that right — forget the 9 to 5, the real money is in the five-finger discount.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Unusual Economic Analysis, took into account factors such as the rising cost of living, taxes, and the sheer inconvenience of having a boss. The findings suggest that, on average, a skilled shoplifter can net more income than their law-abiding counterparts.

“It’s a retail Robin Hood scenario,” said Dr. Penny Pincher, the lead researcher. “Stealing from the shelves and giving to the, well, themselves. It’s the ultimate DIY economics.”

The study has sparked a nationwide debate, with some praising the entrepreneurial spirit of these modern-day “liberators of merchandise” and others expressing concerns about the moral fabric of society.

Conservative commentator, Bill Capitalism, hailed the findings, saying, “Finally, a fiscally responsible alternative to the mundane grind of employment. Who needs a paycheck when you can have a shopping cart filled with unearned goods?”

In response, however, the Ministry of Law and Order issued a stern warning against any attempts to romanticize pilfering. “Contrary to popular belief, stealing is still illegal. This isn’t a ‘choose your own adventure’ novel where the protagonist is a cat burglar with a heart of gold.”

As the nation grapples with the implications of this unexpected economic paradigm shift, one thing is clear: the age-old saying “crime doesn’t pay” might need a revision. In the meantime, it seems our friendly neighbourhood shoplifters are enjoying their newfound status as financial trendsetters.