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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on jobs, spending, financial stress, stimulus payments, travel and return to activities

Reference period
10-15 June 2020
Released
29/06/2020

Key statistics

  • A majority of Australians expect to increase their spending as restrictions ease.
  • 55% intend to go on a domestic holiday once travel restrictions ease.
  • 92% reported they had already returned, or would be soon returning their kids to school or child care.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the sixth Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, a longitudinal survey which collects information from approximately 1,000 people fortnightly via telephone. This cycle was conducted between 10 Jun and 15 Jun 2020.

The sixth cycle collected information on:

  • changes in spending habits
  • financial stress
  • use of stimulus payments
  • return to activities (including future intentions)
  • travel intentions
  • job status.
     

The scope of the survey was persons aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas).

About this collection

This survey is designed to provide a quick snapshot about how Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each cycle has collected information on different topics.

Results from the earlier Household Impacts of COVID-19 Surveys can be found using the following links:

At the time of the survey, initiatives in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy included:

  • international travel restrictions
  • an economic stimulus package (12 March)
  • border control measures for some states and territories
  • shutting down of non-essential services and a second economic stimulus package (22 March)
  • a Coronavirus Supplement announced on 22 March, to be paid fortnightly from 27 April to eligible income support recipients along with their usual payments
  • a safety net package of $1.1 billion to expand mental health and Telehealth services, increase domestic violence services and provide more emergency food relief (29 March)
  • social distancing rules and additional shutdown restrictions (20–30 March)
  • free childcare for working parents (2 April)
  • a JobKeeper Payment passed in legislation on 15 April and paid to employers to keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the COVID-19 restrictions
  • easing of restrictions on elective surgery gradually from 28 April
  • National Cabinet agreeing on a three-stage plan to ease restrictions (8 May)
  • easing of restrictions in all states and territories from mid-May, with all in stage 2 and some in stage 3 at the time of the survey.
     

Proportions marked with an asterisk (*) have a Margin of Error (MoE) >10 percentage points which should be considered when using this information. For more information about MoE refer to the publication methodology.

Spending

Key findings

  • Of a selected list of goods or services, the items on which the most Australians reported their usual spending had decreased during COVID-19 restrictions were eating out (87% of people), child care fees (85%), recreation or leisure activities (79%), public transport (73%) and personal care (64%).
  • Of those whose spending had decreased during COVID-19 restrictions, a majority expect to increase their spending on recreation activities (74%); eating out (74%), private transport (73%), personal care (70%), childcare (66%*) and public transport (55%).
     

Spending during and after COVID-19 restrictions

The survey asked questions on spending habits during and as restrictions were easing for a range of goods and services. This included spending on:

  • take-away or delivered meals
  • eating out at cafés, restaurants, pubs or bars
  • clothing and footwear
  • personal care (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, beauty services and products)
  • household furnishings and equipment (e.g. sofa, desk, electrical goods)
  • private transport, including ongoing vehicle running costs
  • public transport, including taxi and ride sharing fares
  • child care fees
  • recreation or leisure activities (e.g. going to cinemas, playing sports, gym).
     

COVID-19 restrictions began easing in all states and territories from mid-May. The survey was conducted in mid-June when many restrictions had eased. As circumstances were different for each state and territory, respondents were not asked to consider a specific time frame for these questions.

Spending during COVID-19 restrictions

Excluding Australians who never used or bought the specific goods and services mentioned, the survey found that during COVID-19 restrictions:

  • The majority (87%) decreased their spending on eating out at cafés, restaurants, pubs or bars, whilst approximately one in ten (12%) kept their spending the same.
  • Nearly four in five (79%) decreased their spending on recreation or leisure activities (e.g. going to cinemas, playing sports, gym).
  • Three quarters (73%) decreased their spending on public transport, including taxis and ride sharing.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) decreased their spending on personal care (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, beauty services and products).
  • Just over two in five (44%) decreased their spending on clothing and footwear, whilst half (51%) kept their spending the same.
  • Three in five (61%) kept their spending the same on household furnishings and equipment, whilst approximately one in ten (12%) increased their spending on these items.
  • One quarter (24%) increased their spending on take-away or delivered meals and nearly half (48%) kept their spending the same.
     
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  1. Includes going to cinemas, playing sports, gym.
  2. Includes taxi and ride sharing fares.
  3. Includes hairdressers, barbers, beauty services and products.
  4. Includes ongoing vehicle running costs.
  5. Includes sofa, desk, electrical goods.

Expected future spending with easing or lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

Respondents who reported an increase or decrease in spending on selected goods and services during COVID-19 restrictions were asked whether, given restrictions were easing, they expected their spending patterns to change.

For those who had decreased their spending during the COVID-19 restrictions, Table 1 shows the proportions who expect their spending to increase, or remain the same, as restrictions ease. Of these people:

  • A majority expected to increase their spending on recreational or leisure activities (74%), eating out (74%), private transport (73%), personal care (70%), childcare (66%*) and public transport (55%) compared to their reduced expenditure during the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The majority of Australians who had reduced expenditure on household furnishings (72%*) and clothing and footwear (52%) expected to continue to spend lower amounts on these items as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
  • Expectations of those who had decreased their expenditure on take-away food were evenly split between those who expected to increase their expenditure (45%) and those who expected it to remain the same as during the COVID-19 restrictions (48%).
     

Table 1 - Persons aged 18 years who noted spending had decreased during COVID-19 restrictions, change expected in future spending (a)

 IncreaseStay the same
 %%
Household furnishings and equipment (b)
23.5
71.5*
Clothing and footwear
44.1
52.2
Take-away or delivered meals
45.3
48.1
Public transport (c)
55.3
37.8
Child care fees
66.2*
31.2*
Personal care (d)
69.9
28.1
Private transport (e)
73.4
25.1
Eating out at cafés, restaurants, pubs or bars
73.9
22.4
Recreation or leisure activities (f)
74.0
20.0
a. ‘decrease’ and ‘don’t know’ responses have not been included
b. Includes sofa, desk, electrical goods.
c. Includes taxi and ride sharing fares.
d. Includes hairdressers, barbers, beauty services and products.
e. Includes ongoing vehicle running costs.
f. Includes going to cinemas, playing sports, gym.
 

Of the 24% of Australians who reported that they had increased their usual expenditure on take-away or delivered meals over half (56%*) expected to decrease their spending when restrictions ease.

Household financial stress and stimulus payments

Key findings

  • Two-thirds of Australians (66%) reported their household finances remained unchanged in the four weeks to mid-June.
  • Nearly one in five Australians (19%) reported their household finances had worsened due to COVID-19 in the four weeks to mid-June.
  • Almost all Australians (94%) aged 18 years and over reported their household expects to be able pay bills received in the next three months.
  • The Coronavirus Supplement and the JobKeeper Payment were most commonly used to pay household bills by those receiving the stimulus payments.
  • Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment, approximately half (48%*) were receiving less income than their usual pay, one third (33%*) were receiving about the same and one in five (20%*) were receiving more.
     

Change to household finances

The survey asked people if their household finances in the last four weeks had improved, remained the same or worsened due to COVID-19. Two-thirds of Australians (66%) reported their household finances remained unchanged, one in five (19%) felt they had worsened and 16% felt they had improved.

Persons aged 18-64 were more likely than persons aged 65 and over to report that their household finances had worsened due to COVID-19 over the four-week period to mid-June (21% compared with 12%).

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The same question on household finances was asked in mid-April when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was at a peak in Australia. At that time, 14% felt their household finances had improved, 31% felt they had worsened and 55% reported they had stayed the same.

When looking at how responses had changed between the two surveys, the following was found:

  • Of the 14% who reported their household finances had improved in mid-April, the majority (89%) continued to report their household finances had improved or stayed the same in mid-June.
  • Of the third (31%) who reported their household finances had worsened in mid-April, a majority (86%) continued to report their household finances had worsened or stayed the same in mid-June, while 14% said their situation had improved.
  • Of those who had not experienced an immediate impact on their household finances in mid-April (55%), household finances had improved for 11% and worsened for 10% in mid-June.
     

Ability to raise money for something important within a week

In mid-June, the majority of Australians (88%) reported their household could raise $2,000 for something important within a week. This is an increase compared to mid-April, when four out of five Australians (81%) reported their household could raise $2,000 within a week.

In mid-June, approximately one in 11 Australians (9%) reported their household could raise $500 but not $2,000 for something important within a week, and 3% of Australians reported their household could not raise $500.

Ability to pay bills

One in 14 Australians (7%) aged 18 years and over reported their household was unable to pay one or more selected bills on time over the period mid-May to mid-June due to a shortage of money.

The majority of Australians (94%) aged 18 years and over reported their household expects to be able to pay bills received in the next three months. Nearly 3% of Australians did not expect to be able to pay one or more selected bills received in the next three months and nearly 4% reported they did not know if they would be able to make these payments.

Financial actions

One in seven Australians (14%) reported that their household took one or more financial actions to support basic living expenses during the period mid-May to mid-June.

The most common financial actions taken over mid-May to mid-June were:

  • drawing on accumulated savings or term deposits (8%)
  • reducing home loan payments (2%).
     

Coronavirus Supplement

From 27 April 2020, the Commonwealth Government paid eligible income support recipients a fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement of $550 along with their usual payments. The Methodology provides further details of eligible recipients.

Approximately one in thirteen Australians aged 18 years and over (8%) said they were currently receiving the temporary Coronavirus Supplement. Persons aged 18 to 64 were much more likely to report receiving the Coronavirus Supplement than those aged 65 and over (10% compared with 1%).

When broken down by sex:

  • 9% of females reported receiving the Coronavirus Supplement
  • 6% of males reported receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.
     

People receiving the Coronavirus Supplement most commonly reported using it to pay household bills (81%*).

The following image provides readers with a word cloud, which is a collection of words depicted in different sizes. The bigger and bolder words reflect the more commonly reported uses of the Coronavirus Supplement.

Persons aged 18 years and over, use of Coronavirus Supplement

Word cloud image for persons aged 18 years and over showing the most common uses of the Coronavirus Supplement

Persons aged 18 years and over, use of Coronavirus Supplement

The following image provides readers with a word cloud, which is a collection of words depicted in different sizes. The bigger and bolder words reflect the more commonly reported uses of the Coronavirus Supplement.

The approximate order from biggest to smallest:
Household bills
Food/drink
Saving it
Mortgage/rent
Household supplies
Clothing/footwear
Alcoholic beverages
Medical services or supplies
Paid credit cards/other personal debt
Recreation/leisure activities
Furnishings/household equipment

JobKeeper Payment

The JobKeeper Payment was introduced by the Commonwealth Government as a subsidy to help keep businesses trading and people employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected employers and sole traders are able to claim $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee from 30 March 2020. The methodology provides further details of eligible recipients.

Approximately one in nine Australians aged 18 years and over (11%) said they are currently receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer.

Persons aged 18 to 64 were much more likely to be receiving the JobKeeper Payment than those aged 65 and over (13% compared with 4%).

When broken down by sex:

  • 13% of males reported receiving the JobKeeper Payment
  • 9% of females reported receiving the JobKeeper Payment.
     

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment, approximately half (48%*) were receiving less income than their usual pay, one third (33%*) were receiving about the same and one in five (20%*) were receiving more.

People receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer most commonly reported using it to pay household bills (72%*).

The following image provides readers with a word cloud. The bigger and bolder words reflect the more common uses of the JobKeeper Payment.

Persons aged 18 years and over, use of the JobKeeper Payment

Word cloud image for persons aged 18 years and over showing the most common uses of the Job Keeper Payment

Persons aged 18 years and over, use of the JobKeeper Payment

The following image provides readers with a word cloud. The bigger and bolder words reflect the more common uses of the JobKeeper Payment.

The approximate order from biggest to smallest:
Household bills
Mortgage/rent
Saving it
Food/drink
Household supplies
Clothing/footwear
Paid credit cards/other personal debt
Alcoholic beverages
Medical services or supplies
Furnishings/household equipment
Recreation/leisure activities

Travel intentions

Key findings

  • More than half (55%) of Australians reported they intend to go on a domestic holiday once COVID-19 travel restrictions ease. Less than a third (29%) reported they intend to go on an international holiday.
     

Domestic and international travel intentions once COVID-19 restrictions ease

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years or over whether they intend to go on a domestic or international holiday once COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, and if so when they intend to do so.

More than half (55%) reported they intend to go on a domestic holiday once COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased or lifted. Less than a third (29%) reported they intend to go on an international holiday.

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Of those people who intend to go on a domestic holiday after COVID-19 restrictions are eased or lifted:

  • one in five (20%) intend to go within the next month
  • a further two thirds (68%) intend to go within the next six months.
     

Of those people who intend to go on an international holiday after COVID-19 restrictions are eased or lifted:

  • a quarter (25%) intend to go within 6 months
  • over two in five (44%*) intend to go in between 6 and 12 months
  • just under a third (31%) intend to go in more than 12 months’ time.
     
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Return to activities

Key findings

  • In the second week of June most parents reported they had sent, or were intending to send, their children to school or child care in person (92%).
  • The majority of Australians reported going shopping or intending to go shopping in physical retail stores (90%).
     

Activities as restrictions ease

The Australian Government has implemented a national three stage plan to begin easing the COVID-19 restrictions. At the time of the survey, the majority of states and territories were in stage 2 of the national plan, while some had moved to stage 3. The restrictions in place allowed people to gather in small groups outdoors and inside some venues. There were limits on the number of people allowed to gather, with social distancing rules applied.

The survey asked respondents if they had participated in selected activities in the previous week, and whether they were intending to return to selected activities over the next four weeks if restrictions allowed. These activities were:

  • attending a workplace in person
  • attending an educational institution in person
  • sending children to school or child care in person
  • attending a social gathering of more than 10 people
  • dining in at restaurants or cafés
  • going to licensed venues including pubs or bars
  • shopping in physical retail stores
  • using a hair or beauty service including a hairdresser, barbershop or beauty salon
  • attending an open home sale or auction
  • going to a gym, boot camp or swimming pool
  • using public recreational areas including beaches, parks, playgrounds and skate parks
  • playing sports or attending training sessions.
     

Popular activities that people had either returned to, or expected to return to soon, were sending their children to school and child care, shopping in physical retail stores, using hair and beauty services, attending work in person, using public recreational spaces, and dining in at restaurants and cafés. The activities for which people least expected to return to their usual attendance soon were: open home sales or auctions, playing sports or training sessions, gyms, boot camps and swimming pools.

Based on Australians aged 18 years and over who usually participate in each activity, the survey found:

  • Around nine in ten Australians with children (89%) sent their children to school or child care in person in the previous week with another 3% intending to do so in the next four weeks.
  • Almost three in four (72%) went shopping in physical retail stores in the previous week with another 18% expecting to do so in the next four weeks.
  • Three in five Australians with jobs (60%) attended their workplace in person in the previous week, with another 18% intending to do so in the next four weeks. For the previous week, more men (66%*) reported attending their workplace in person than women (53%).
     

A third of Australians (34%) reported using a hair or beauty service in the last week and two in five (43%) intended to use one in the next four weeks.

Combining activity in the past week with intentions in the next four weeks, other popular activities were:

  • using public recreational areas including beaches, parks, playgrounds and skate parks (77% either have used or intend to use)
  • dining in at restaurants or cafés (76%)
  • attending a social gathering of more than 10 people (60%).
     
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  1. Includes hairdresser, barbershop or beauty salon.
  2. Includes beaches, parks, playgrounds and skate parks.
  3. Had participated in selected activities in the previous week.
  4. Whether intending to return to selected activities over the next four weeks, but have not participated in the activity in the last week.

Changes in usual attendance at place of work or study

For those who reported attending their place of work or study in person in the last week, or who intend to in the next four weeks, the survey asked about any changes in their attendance when compared to their usual practices before the COVID-19 restrictions.

Over three quarters of Australians (77%) who usually attend their workplace in person reported they attended in the previous week, or intend to attend in person within the next four weeks.

Compared to the time before COVID-19 restrictions, the survey found:

  • 13% attended or expected to attend their workplace more often
  • 31% attended or expected to attend less often
  • 53%* attended or expected to attend about the same.
     

Just over half of Australians (56%*) who usually attend an educational institution in person reported they attended in the previous week, or intend to attend in person within the next four weeks.

Compared to the time before COVID-19 restrictions, the survey found:

  • 13%* attended or expected to attend their educational institution more often
  • 24%* attended or expected to attend less often
  • 63%* attended or expected to attend about the same.

Job status

Key findings

  • Three in five Australians aged 18 years and over (61%) had a job working paid hours in mid-June.
     

Current job status

The survey collected information on the current (mid-June) job status of all respondents, and whether their job situation had changed in the previous two weeks.

Respondents were asked simple questions about changes to their job situation, rather than the full suite of employment-related questions included in the ABS’ Labour Force Survey (see Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (cat. no. 6232.0)). The results of this survey are, therefore, not directly comparable to Australia’s official Labour Force measures. The Margin of Error (MoE) on these estimates are around seven times greater than Labour Force statistics (the Labour Force Survey sample is around 50 times larger). More information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 can be found here.

Table 2 shows the self-reported job status of Australians aged 18 years and over covering the period early-March to mid-June.

Table 2 - Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status

 Early March (1st survey cycle)Early April (1st survey cycle)Mid-April (2nd survey cycle)Early May (3rd survey cycle)Mid-May (4th survey cycle)Late May (5th survey cycle)Mid-June (6th survey cycle)
 %%%%%%%
Has a job
66.2
63.4
63.6
64.2
63.2
63.0
64.6
Working paid hours
64.0
55.8
56.6
59.0
58.7
59.1
61.1
Not working paid hours
2.2
7.6
7.0
5.3
4.5
3.8
3.5
Does not have a paid job(a)
33.8
36.6
36.4
35.8
36.8
37.0
35.4
a. Includes all people without a job and should be considered only a loose approximation for the combined “unemployed” and “not in the labour force” groups.
 

The survey found that three in five Australians aged 18 years and over (61%) had a job working paid hours in mid-June. This was the first time since early March that the estimated proportion of Australians who had a job working paid hours rose above 60%.

The proportion of people who reported they had a job but were not working paid hours steadily decreased from 7.6% in early April to 3.5% in mid-June.

The results of the most recent Labour Force Survey, with data in respect of the first two weeks of May, collected over a three-week period from 10 May to 30 May, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, May 2020 (cat. no. 6202.0).

What's next?

The ABS followed up with the same people on 24 June 2020 to undertake the seventh cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics included:

  • job status
  • whether people have moved in the last year and whether they intend to
  • personal and household stressors
  • lifestyle changes
  • feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing
  • precautions taken due to COVID-19 (including download and use of the COVIDSafe app)
  • use of Telehealth services
  • extent of disruption to services for people with a disability.
     

Information from the seventh survey will be released on 13 July 2020.

The ABS would like to thank all participants for their involvement in the survey. The information collected is of value to inform government and community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Household Impacts visual summary

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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey results

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Household impacts of COVID-19 include well-being, behavioural and social measures.

  • During restrictions 87% of Australians spent less on eating at cafés, restaurants, pubs or bars, 73% on public transport, including taxis and ride sharing, 64% on personal care, 44% on clothing and footwear, and 27% on household furnishings and equipment.
  • 94% expect their household to be able to pay bills received in the next three months.
  • Three in five Australians with jobs attended their workplace in person in the previous week, and another 18% intend to in the next four weeks.
  • 29% of Australians intend to go on an international holiday once travel restrictions ease.
  • 55% intend to go on a domestic holiday. One in five of those intend to go within the next month, and a further two in three intend to go within the next six months.
  • Almost three in four went shopping in physical retail stores in the previous week.
  • Three in four have dined in at a restaurant or café or intend to in the next four weeks.
  • More than three in four have or intend to use public recreational areas including beaches, parks or playgrounds.


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

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1–9

History of changes

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30/06/2020 - Persons aged 18 years and over who intend to travel once COVID-19 restrictions have eased or lifted, by when they intend to travel and holiday destination graph updated in the Travel Intentions chapter.