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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19

Insights into the prevalence and nature of impacts from COVID-19 on businesses operating in Australia

Reference period
June 2020
Released
24/06/2020

Key statistics

  • Two thirds of businesses report a decrease in revenue compared to last year.
  • Almost 1 in 3 of those businesses report revenue decreased by 50% or more.
  • 3 in 4 businesses continue to trade with modifications.
  • 3 in 5 businesses sought advice about operating in COVID-19 conditions.

Business impacts of COVID-19 survey

This publication provides information on the incidence and nature of impacts due to COVID-19, as experienced by businesses operating in Australia.

Topics covered in this release include:

  • Modifications to business operations;
  • Subjects and sources of external advice sought by business;
  • Changes in business revenue compared to same time last year;
  • Length of time business operations could be supported by available cash on hand.
     

The collection was conducted through a telephone survey between 10 June and 17 June 2020, with a sample size of 2,000 businesses. The final response rate was 72% (1,431 responding businesses).

This release forms part of the suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the impact of COVID-19. Future information collected in this survey will evolve to maintain relevance in a changing environment.

Modifications to business operations

In June 2020, almost three quarters (73%) of all businesses reported that they were operating under modified conditions due to COVID-19. In May 2020, 70% of all businesses reported that they were operating under modified conditions.

By employment size, the proportion of all businesses that were operating under modified conditions were:

  • 72% of small businesses (i.e. 0-19 persons employed)
  • 85% of medium sized businesses (i.e. 20-199 persons employed)
  • 90% of large businesses (i.e. 200 or more persons employed)
     

Types of modifications made

Businesses that reported having modified operations as a result of COVID-19 also provided information on the types of modifications made. The most commonly reported modifications were the introduction of new hygiene protocols and practices (65%), followed by limitations to the number of people on site (57%).

Modifications to business operations, by type of modification and employment size(a)(b)

 Limitations to the number of people on siteIntroduced new hygiene protocols and practicesChanged the types and range of products or services offeredChanged the way products or services are provided to customersChanged operating hoursChanged payment methodsChanged suppliers or supply chainChanged staff roles or dutiesOther workforce changes(c)
 %%%%%%%%%
Small (0-19 persons)
56
64
22
39
31
16
9
25
44
Medium (20-199 persons)
76
80
28
49
35
18
11
38
72
Large (200 or more persons)
87
88
32
54
37
19
15
46
84
All businesses
57
65
22
40
31
16
9
25
46
a. Proportions are of all businesses.
b. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
c. For example, staff working from home or operating with a reduced workforce.  


The propensity to report modifications to business operations increased with the size of the business across all types of modification. For example, 87% of large businesses reported having limited the number of people on site, compared with 56% of small businesses.

Modifications to business operations, top four industries (a)

Proportions of Types of modification made by businesses and industries where businesses most commonly responded

Modifications to business operations, top four industries (a)

Businesses that reported having modified operations as a result of COVID-19 also provided information on the types of modifications made. This image presents the top four industries that implemented certain modifications to business operations.

Businesses in Health care and social assistance (93%) were the most likely to have introduced physical distancing and hygiene modifications(b) followed by businesses in Accommodation and food services (89%), Retail trade (84%), and Manufacturing (80%).

Businesses in Accommodation and food services (74%) were the most likely to have introduced changed operating hours, payment methods or suppliers(c) followed by businesses in Health care and social assistance (69%), Retail trade (61%), and Other services (57%).

Businesses in Accommodation and food services (78%) were most likely to have introduced innovation(d) followed by businesses in Health care and social assistance (70%), Education and training (64%), and Arts and recreation services (58%).

Businesses in Health care and social assistance (77%) were most likely to have introduced workforce changes(e) followed by businesses in Accommodation and food services (72%), Education and training (64%), and Professional scientific and technical services (64%).
  1. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
  2. Proportions are of all businesses that reported they limited the number of people on site or introduced new hygiene protocols and practices.
  3. Proportions are of all businesses that reported they changed operating hours, payment methods or suppliers.
  4. Proportions are of all businesses that reported they changed the types and range of products and services offered or the way they are delivered to customers.
  5. Proportions are of all businesses that reported they changed staff roles or duties or other workforce changes.
     

By industry, businesses in Accommodation and food services were the most likely to have introduced innovation (78%) and changed operating hours, payment methods or suppliers (74%), while businesses in Health care and social assistance were the most likely to have made modifications related to physical distancing and hygiene (93%) and workforce changes (77%).

Subjects and sources of external advice sought by business

Three in five (60%) businesses sought external advice in response to COVID-19. External advice included obtaining information online or in print, such as regulatory information or guidelines, or paid or unpaid direct consultation with individuals or organisations external to the business.

By employment size, the proportion of businesses that sought external advice in response to COVID-19 were:

  • 59% of small businesses (i.e. 0-19 persons employed)
  • 72% of medium sized businesses (i.e. 20-199 persons employed)
  • 66% of large businesses (i.e. 200 or more persons employed)
     

Businesses operating under modified conditions were twice as likely to report having sought external advice (70%) compared to those operating as normal (35%).

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  1. Proportions are of all businesses.

Businesses in Health care and social assistance (86%), Arts and recreational services (80%) and Education and training (75%) were the most likely to have sought external advice in response to COVID-19; businesses in these industries were among the most likely to report having experienced adverse impacts due to the pandemic in previous iterations of the Business Impacts of COVID-19 survey.

Subject and sources of external advice sought

Businesses that reported having sought advice in response to COVID-19 also provided information on the subjects and sources of the external advice sought.

Most commonly reported subjects and sources of external advice sought by businesses (a)(b)

Graphic shows proportions of the most commonly reported subject and sources of external advice sought by businesses.

Most commonly reported subjects and sources of external advice sought by businesses (a)(b)

This image contains the most commonly reported subjects and sources of external advice sought by businesses.

The top subjects of advice sought were Government support measures available to the business (52%), Regulation and compliance (45%), Health and safety (39%), and Management of business finances (32%).

The top advice sources were Private organisations(c) (49%), Federal government agency (38%), State government agency (35%), and Customers (21%).
  1. Proportions are of all businesses.
  2. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
  3. For example, bank, lawyer, accountant
     

Subjects of external advice sought, by employment size(a)(b)

 Small (0-19 persons)Medium (20-199 persons)Large (200 or more persons)All businesses
 %%%%
Government support measures available to the business
51
66
59
52
Regulation and compliance
44
61
55
45
Management of business finances
31
38
31
32
Workforce management
24
41
30
25
Business continuity/contingency planning
24
37
28
25
Health and safety
38
54
48
39
Marketing, advertising or promotion
11
15
14
11
Supply chain management
11
15
12
11
Information and communications technology
18
23
20
18
a. Proportions are of all businesses.
b. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
 

Sources of external advice sought, by employment size(a)(b)

 Small (0-19 persons)Medium (20-199 persons)Large (200 or more persons)All businesses
 %%%%
Federal government agency
37
53
54
38
State government agency
34
48
44
35
Private organisations (including bank, lawyer, accountant)
48
61
51
49
Not-for-profit institution (including industry body or associations)
16
24
19
16
Friends or family
20
16
11
20
Suppliers
16
27
21
17
Customers
20
26
22
21
Other
8
11
6
8
a. Proportions are of all businesses.
b. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
 

Medium sized businesses (i.e. 20-199 persons employed) were the most likely to report having sought advice for each of the listed subjects.

While not included as a survey response, a number of businesses provided comments identifying local government and councils as a source of external advice.

Subject and source of advice for selected industries (a)

Subject and source of advice for selected industries
This image details the subject and source of advice for selected industries. 86% of Health care and social assistance businesses sought advice(b). The most common type of advice(c)(d) sought were government support measures available (85%) and health and safety (83%). The most common sources(c)(d) were federal government agency (84%) and private organisations(e) (68%).

Subject and source of advice for selected industries
This image details the subject and source of advice for selected industries. 80% of Arts and recreation services businesses sought advice(b). The most common type of advice(c)(d) sought were government support measures available (78%) and regulation and compliance (68%). The most common sources(c)(d) were private organisations(e) (76%) and state government agency (63%).
Subject and source of advice for selected industries
This image details the subject and source of advice for selected industries. 75% of Education and training businesses sought advice(b). The most common type of advice(c)(d) sought were regulation and compliance (88%) and government support measures available (73%). The most common sources(c)(d) were federal government agency (81%) and private organisations(e) (79%).
Subject and source of advice for selected industries
This image details the subject and source of advice for selected industries. 72% of Retail trade businesses sought advice(b). The most common type of advice(c)(d) sought were government support measures available (89%) and regulation and compliance (75%). The most common sources(c)(d) were private organisations(e) (84%) and federal government agency (69%).
  1. Industries selected where businesses were most likely to have sought advice, excluding Other services.
  2. Proportions are of all businesses.
  3. Proportions are of all businesses that sought external advice
  4. Businesses could provide more than one response to the question.
  5. For example, bank, lawyer, accountant

Changes in business revenue compared to same time last year

Businesses reported the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on revenue, compared to the same time last year. Two thirds of all businesses reported revenue had decreased compared to the same time last year.

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  1. Proportions are of all businesses.

Businesses in Education and training were the most likely to report a reduction in revenue compared to the same time last year (87%).

Less than one in ten of all businesses (8%) reported that revenue had increased compared to the same time last year.

Magnitude of revenue decrease

Businesses that reported a revenue decrease also provided an estimate of how much their revenue had decreased compared to the same time last year. Businesses were asked to provide a best estimate only, without accessing business records or reports.

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  1. Proportions are of businesses that reported a decrease in revenue compared to the same period last year.

Businesses with decreased revenue that were operating as normal were most likely to report that revenue was up to 25 per cent lower (44%), while businesses with decreased revenue operating under modified conditions were most likely to report that revenue was 25 to less than 50 per cent lower (38%).

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  1. Proportions are of businesses that reported a decrease in revenue compared to the same period last year.
Download
  1. Proportions are of businesses that reported a decrease in revenue compared to the same period last year.

More than half of businesses with decreased revenue in Accommodation and food services (63%), Arts and recreation services (60%) and Information media and telecommunications (53%) reported that revenue had reduced by 50 per cent or more compared to the same time last year.

Business sentiments on length of time operations could be supported by available cash on hand

Businesses were asked to estimate the length of time that, under current conditions, operations could be supported by currently available cash on hand.

In interpreting these results, it should be noted:

  • The question was intended to capture business sentiments on their perceived financial resilience.
  • Responses provide a point-in-time indication of business sentiments based on conditions experienced at the time of enumeration (between 10 June and 17 June 2020).
  • As business conditions are constantly evolving, this would impact responses. For example, on 12 June National Cabinet agreed to a further removal of restrictions.
  • Businesses were asked to provide a best estimate only, without accessing business records or reports.
  • Cash on hand includes savings, assets that can easily be sold, and unused credit facilities.
     
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  1. Proportions are of all businesses.

Several businesses commented that existing cash on hand would not be sufficient to maintain operations if not for government support measures.

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  1. Proportions are of all businesses.

Three in ten (30%) small businesses (i.e. those with 0-19 persons employed) reported that currently available cash on hand would support business operations for less than 3 months; compared to 24% of medium sized businesses (20-199 persons employed) and 12% of large businesses (200 or more persons employed).

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  1. Proportions are of all businesses.

The industries with the largest proportion of businesses that reported their currently available cash on hand would support less than 3 months of operations were Professional, scientific and technical services (42%), Accommodation and food services (42%) and Transport postal and warehousing (40%).

Business impacts of COVID-19 visual summary

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Business impacts of COVID-19 Survey results

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Business impacts of COVID-19 include differences in revenue, sources of additional funding or support, and changes in operating conditions.

  • Two thirds of businesses report a decrease in revenue compared to last year.
  • Almost 1 in 3 of those businesses report revenue decreased by 50% or more.
  • 87% of Education and training businesses report decreased income, as do 84% of Accommodation and food services businesses; 80% of Information, media and telecommunications businesses; 78% of Arts and recreation services businesses; and 78% of Administrative and support services businesses.
  • 3 in 4 businesses continue to trade with modifications. 65% introduced new hygiene practices, 57% limited the number of people on site for social distancing, and 46% made workforce changes such as working from home or reduced staffing.
  • 3 in 5 businesses sought advice about operating in COVID-19 conditions. Commonly sought advice includes: available government support measures (52%); regulation and compliance (45%); health and safety (39%); and management of business finances (32%).


Detailed data on the impacts of COVID-19 can be found at abs.gov.au/covid19

Technical note - questionnaire

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Supplementary business survey - business impacts from COVID-19

1(a) Is this business currently trading?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 2a]
 ☐ No [Go to Question 1b]
  
 (b) Is the halt in business trading a result of COVID-19?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 3a]
 ☐ No [End of survey]
  
2(a) Since the start of March, has this business made changes to its operations, as a result of COVID-19?
 ☐ None, continued trading as normal [Go to Question 3a]
 ☐ Continued operating under modified conditions [Go to Question 2b]
  
 (b) Thinking of those modified conditions can you tell me if the business has made any of the following modifications to its operations: (select all that apply)
 ☐ Limiting the number of people on site based on physical distancing requirements
 ☐ Introduced new hygiene protocols and practices (e.g. supply of cleaning and sanitiser products)
 ☐ Changed the types and range of products and services offered by the business
 ☐ Changed the way products or services are provided to customers (e.g. shifted more operations online, offering home delivery, no face to face contact with customers)
 ☐ Changed operating hours including opening by appointment only
 ☐ Changed payment methods (e.g. contactless, cash-free)
 ☐ Changed suppliers or supply chain
 ☐ Changed staff roles or duties
 ☐ Other workforce changes (e.g. working from home, reduced workforce)
 ☐ Other modifications (please specify)
  
3(a) In response to COVID-19 conditions, has the business sought any external advice?
 [Note: External advice can include obtaining information online or in print, such as regulatory information or guidelines or paid or unpaid direct consultation with individuals external to this business]
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 3b]
 ☐ No [Go to Question 4a]
 ☐ Don't know [Go to Question 4a]
  
 (b) Was the advice related to any of the following: (select all that apply)
 ☐ Government support measures available to the business (e.g. Jobkeeper, Boosting cash flow for employers payment, loan guarantee scheme, increasing the instant asset write-off)
 ☐ Regulation and compliance (e.g. COVIDSafe plan, health and safety, tax reporting obligations)
 ☐ Management of business finances (e.g. seeking additional funds, loan arrangements, financial reporting and planning)
 ☐ Workforce management
 ☐ Business continuity/contingency planning
 ☐ Health and safety
 ☐ Marketing, advertising or promotion
 ☐ Supply chain management (e.g. logistics, distribution, purchasing)
 ☐ Information and communications technology
  
 (c) From which of the following sources did the business get this advice? (select all that apply)
 ☐ Federal Government agency
 ☐ State Government agency
 ☐ Private institution (including bank, lawyer, accountant)
 ☐ Not-for-profit institution (including industry body or associations)
 ☐ Friends or family
 ☐ Suppliers
 ☐ Customers
 ☐ Other sources (please specify)
  
4(a) To the best of your knowledge, what impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the revenue of this business compared to this time last year?
 ☐ Decreased [Go to Question 4b]
 ☐ Increased [Go to Question 5]
 ☐ Remained the same [Go to Question 5]
 ☐ Don't know [Go to Question 5]
  
 (b) What is your best estimate of how much revenue has decreased compared to this time last year?
 ☐ Up to 25 per cent lower
 ☐ 25 to less than 50 per cent lower
 ☐ 50 to less than 75 per cent lower
 ☐ 75 to 100 per cent lower
 ☐ Don’t know
  
5Based on current conditions, what is your best estimate of the length of time that this business’s operations could be supported by its currently available cash on hand?
 [Note: Cash on hand includes savings, assets that can easily be sold, and unused credit facilities]
 ☐ Less than 1 month of business operations
 ☐ 1 to less than 3 months
 ☐ 3 to less than 6 months
 ☐ More than 6 months
 ☐ Don’t know

Data downloads

Business impacts of COVID-19 June 2020