Flat White

The other coronavirus toll

17 December 2020

12:22 PM

17 December 2020

12:22 PM

We know all too well about the coronavirus death toll, but what about its household and financial impact?

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is releasing the mid-year budget update today and we’ve had the monthly unemployment figures out this morning, but they both offered typically dry data.

For an on the ground look, turn to the Roy Morgan Market Research Update, released on Tuesday. It tells a very different story to government triumphalism — a story of two nations:

Almost 6 million Australians (28%) have had their employment negatively impacted by COVID-19 and 51% of them made resulting changes to their personal finances, as did many whose employment was not impacted directly. Throughout September and October, more than 7,000 Australians were surveyed about changes they had experienced in their employment since March and about the impact on their payments of mortgage, rent, insurance, utility bills, credit cards and personal loans.

Well over one-quarter (28%) of respondents reported experiencing one or more of the following negative employment changes: I had my work hours reduced; I was stood down for a period; I was not offered any work; I had my pay reduced for the same number of work hours; I was made redundant; My business slowed or stopped completely. This represents 5.9 million Australians.

Of those who have experienced negative employment changes due to COVID-19, more than half (51.0%) reported reducing housing and insurance payments or utility bills, cutting back on debt repayment, and/or making early-release withdrawals from their superannuation.

In all, 27.3% of all Australians, including those who did not experience employment changes, made such changes to their finances due to the impact of COVID-19.

These are significant numbers, tracking from over a quarter up to towards a third of the population.

And how much of these people’s suffering was due directly to the virus — or incompetence, negligence or heavy-handed control measures from various governments?

That’s something we won’t hear about among the backslapping.

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