Aussie households have lost $102b during pandemic, study shows

Australian households will miss out on $102 billion of income through lost jobs and lower hours because of the coronavirus crisis.


May 07, 2020, updated May 07, 2020
(Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

(Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

A new study from the Australian National University finds there have been unprecedented falls in employment and hours worked between February and April, when the restrictions to deal with the crisis bit hard.

The survey found the proportion of people with jobs dropped from 62 per cent to 58.9 per cent – five times bigger than any other two-month fall in employment.

The biggest drops were among the nation’s youngest workers, closely followed by those who’d just tipped into retirement age.

Casual workers were far more likely to have lost their jobs.

Average hours worked fell by more than 13 per cent, from 35.1 to 31.1 hours a week.

One in four people said they’d had their hours cut and one in eight said they’d been made to take paid leave.

“This is unprecedented in modern Australian economic history,” researcher Matthew Gray said.

“If previous periods of high unemployment are any guide, the effect on the young is likely to be felt throughout their working life, and those who leave the labour force when close to retirement age may never return.”

People who had jobs were much less confident about keeping them or being able to find another good position if they needed to.

All this had a big impact on how much money people had, with average household incomes dropping by about 10 per cent from February levels.

Professor Gray said the total hit to annual income would be $102 billion.

But he says one of the most important findings was that government support had actually led to the poorest households finding their weekly income grew by a third.

The ANU poll surveyed 3155 people in the second half of April. The same respondents were also surveyed in January and February.

The Government has temporarily doubled the rate of unemployment benefits and sent a $750 payment to most pensioners.

Labor wants the audit office to look at how the Government’s massive support spend has affected Commonwealth debt.

The Morrison Government has raised the notional debt ceiling from $600 billion to $850 billion.

Labor is concerned about future generations dealing with the debt, as a new Swinburne University of Technology report shows home ownership is projected to decline from 67 per cent in 2016 to 63 per cent by 2040.

It also finds that by 2040 about half of households in the 25 to 55 age group will own a home, down from 60 per cent in 1981.


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