Tracking outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic (October 2020) – Reconvergence

By Nicholas Biddle & Matthew Gray (ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods)

From mid-late October, the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre conducted a survey of a little over 3,000 adult Australians, as part of the longitudinal COVID Impact Monitoring Survey Program. We found that anxiety and worry due to COVID-19 has continued to increase with females and young Australians continuing to be more anxious and worried. Life satisfaction appears to have improved slightly for Victorians (converging back to the rest of the Australian population) and there is some emerging evidence that psychological distress has increased again for young Australians. We also provide evidence that hours worked in Victoria have increased as restrictions have begun to be eased again, although this hides some significant within-state variation, as Melbourne still lags behind those in other capital cities. Importantly, both Victorians and the rest of Australia were less pessimistic about losing their jobs over the next 12 months, though that particular measure is still much higher than recorded in other surveys prior to the pandemic.

Using our full longitudinal dataset, we estimate that for all adults, there was an average loss of 67.4 hours over the pandemic period thus far, or 166.7 hours for those who were working in February. At estimated average hourly earnings, we estimate a loss in production over the period of $47.0 billion from the drop in hours worked alone. Males have lost more hours than females, and those in the middle part of the age distribution have lost more than the young and old. The middle part of the education distribution has also lost more hours, though perhaps the most worrying finding is that Australians who were born overseas in a non-English speaking country have lost more hours than those born in Australia, even after we control for demographic and human capital characteristics.

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