Research shows COVID-19 damaged the Australian workforce in different ways – many businesses shrank or collapsed, some people lost work hours and others lost their job altogether.
On average, Australian employees lost 167 hours of work from March to October, according to research published by The Australian National University this week.
That indicated a loss of more than $5,000 for each worker, and a loss of $47 billion for the economy.
Canberra Business Chamber CEO, Graham Catt, said Canberra was fortunate to some extent because it was buffered by the number of public sector jobs in the nation’s capital, however many of the 30,000-plus local businesses were feeling the crunch.
“It’s a very mixed story out there and I think it’s important we understand that although the public sector plays a significant role, Canberra has a large private sector.”
When it came to the COVID recession in Canberra, Mr Catt said there were very different stories being played out.
Businesses in areas like professional services, law and accounting reported that business was as good as it had ever been.
“Revenue has been down but they’ve been able to cut costs and in some cases become more profitable.”
Mr Catt said some sectors in retail were “performing as well if not better”, including bike shops and home renovation supplies.
But businesses in tourism, hospitality and some areas of retail were not so lucky.
“Unfortunately, those businesses really have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and suffered financial difficulty in many cases. They’re still operating under the impact of restrictions,” he said.
ANU researchers said some missing income would have been paid to individuals through JobKeeper, however the loss of production was still lost to the economy.
The same report showed the economic cost of the COVID recession was not evenly distributed across the population.
Workers who completed Year 12 and did not have a university degree lost the most working hours, while those who did not complete Year 12 lost the least.
People born overseas in a non-English speaking country lost a substantially larger number of work hours (104) than an otherwise equivalent Australian-born worker.
The ANU report came in the same week as new analysis from free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which indicated small business workers suffered heavier job losses than other sectors.
In the first three weeks of October, 325,000 small business workers lost their job, whereas 44,500 big business workers were hired, according to IPA analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
Small businesses were classified as those with fewer than 20 employees, and big businesses had more than 200 employees.
Mr Catt said the vast majority of businesses in the ACT were micro and small businesses and approximately 65% of jobs in the Territory came from the private sector.
“Those statistics and that payroll data figure are interesting, and I think to some extent they apply in the ACT but probably to a lesser extent.
“We have seen from March to October that dropping off of employment figures in the private sector – about 9,000 jobs in that time, which is still significant for a population of 166,000 employees.”
On Tuesday, the Federal Government announced that the Coronavirus Supplement, received by people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and parenting payments, will be reduced by $100 per fortnight from 31 December until late March 2021.
The ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) condemned the “cruel” announcement and pointed out it would impact almost 23,000 Canberrans currently receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.
“This Christmas was already going to be tough for the thousands of Canberrans who have lost jobs and income over the past year. Now they face a further cut to income support on 31 December,” ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said.
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