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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on jobs, training, time use, health precautions, flu vaccination and activities as restrictions ease

Reference period
26-29 May 2020
Released
15/06/2020

Key statistics

  • 62% of Australians said they would most like to return to having larger gatherings of family and friends.
  • 76% reported they were most uncomfortable with returning to attending large public events.
  • 64% said the development of a vaccine would ease their concerns over returning to activities.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the fifth 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 26 May and 29 May 2020.

The fifth cycle collected information on:

  • activity after relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions
  • flu vaccinations
  • health precautions taken in response to COVID-19
  • time spent on activities (including activities at the same time as caring for children)
  • job status
  • education and skills development.
     

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 links below:

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 safety net package of $1.1 billion to expand mental health and tele-health 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, 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 some entering stage 2 at the time of the survey allowing visiting, larger gatherings and reopening of services.
     

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

Return to activities

Key findings

  • As COVID-19 restrictions ease, almost nine in ten Australians 18 years and over (89%) who see a GP or other health professional reported that they were comfortable returning to seeing them in person.
  • Over four in five people who worked (86%) noted they were comfortable with resuming attendance at their usual workplace.
  • The most common activities that Australians reported being uncomfortable returning to were attending large public events (76% uncomfortable) or indoor gatherings of more than 100 people (66% uncomfortable).
  • Three in five Australians said they would most like to return to having larger gatherings of family and friends (62%) and dining in at restaurants or cafés (61%).
  • Three in five Australians said the development of a vaccine (64%) and lower daily infection rates (61%) would ease their concerns over returning to activities as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
     

Activities as restrictions ease

The State and Territory Governments of Australia are continuing to review the level of COVID-19 restrictions in place to protect their communities. All states and territories put in place three stage plans to ease restrictions from mid-May. At the time of the survey in late May, people were allowed to gather in small groups outdoors and in some venues, but there were still limits on the number of people, and social distancing rules still applied.

The survey asked respondents if they are: very comfortable, somewhat comfortable or uncomfortable, doing selected activities as COVID-19 restrictions are eased or lifted. These include:

  • resuming usual attendance at their workplace
  • resuming usual attendance at an educational institution
  • sending their children to school or child care in person
  • seeing a GP or other health professional in person
  • using public transport
  • travelling by aeroplane
  • attending a social gathering of more than 10 people
  • attending an indoor gathering of more than 100 people (including restaurants, museums, libraries, gyms and churches)
  • attending large public events (including sporting matches or music festivals).
     

Over half of adult Australians (55%) who see a GP or health professional were very comfortable and one third (34%) somewhat comfortable returning to in-person appointments as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Around two thirds (65%) of Australians aged 65 years and over reported they were very comfortable seeing a GP or other health professional in person.

Other activities adult Australians were very or somewhat comfortable returning to included:

  • resuming usual attendance at their workplace (53% very comfortable, 33% somewhat comfortable)
  • sending their children to school or child care in person (50% very comfortable, 31% somewhat comfortable)
  • resuming usual attendance at their educational institution (31% very comfortable, 46% somewhat comfortable)
  • attending a social gathering of more than 10 people (23% very comfortable, 40% somewhat comfortable).
     

Australians 18 years and over reported that they were most uncomfortable with:

  • returning to attending large public events (76%)
  • attending indoor gatherings of more than 100 people (66%)
  • resuming their usual travel by aeroplane (63%)
  • resuming their use of public transport (59%).
     

For these activities, women were slightly more likely than men to report that they were uncomfortable with returning to the activities.

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What needs to happen to ease concerns

The survey asked respondents who expressed concerns over returning to activities, what would need to happen to make them feel more comfortable. Options included:

  • more appropriate and timely COVID-19 related information
  • more widespread use of the COVIDSafe app
  • better research understanding of the virus and its symptoms
  • less pressure on the health care system
  • lower daily infection rates
  • lower daily death rates
  • higher testing rates
  • available treatments that are proven to be effective
  • development of a vaccine.
     

Nearly two thirds of adult Australians said the development of a vaccine (64%) and lower daily infection rates (61%) would ease their concerns over returning to activities as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

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  1. Refers to persons who responded ‘somewhat comfortable’, ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘don’t know’ for returning to an activity.

Activities after restrictions ease

The survey asked respondents the activities they would most like to return to doing when COVID-19 restrictions ease. These include:

  • dining in at restaurants or cafés
  • going to licensed venues including pubs, bars or nightclubs
  • going to the cinema
  • shopping in physical retail stores
  • playing sports
  • going to a gym, boot camp or swimming pool
  • using public recreational areas (including beaches, parks, playgrounds and skate parks)
  • having larger gatherings of family and friends
  • attending sporting events
  • attending religious activities in groups
  • attending cultural events and festivals
  • going to museums, galleries and exhibitions
  • travelling domestically
  • travelling internationally.
     

Around three out of five Australians aged 18 years and over said they would most like to return to having larger gatherings of family and friends (62%), dining in at restaurants or cafés (61%) and travelling domestically (58%). Over half (52%) were looking forward to using public recreational areas again.

Other activities Australians would most like to return include:

  • going to the cinema (38%)
  • going to licensed venues including pubs, bars or nightclubs (34%)
  • going to a gym, boot camp or swimming pool (33%)
  • attending sporting events (31%)
  • travelling internationally (31%).
     
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Flu vaccination and other precautions

Key findings

  • This year close to four in five (78%) adults have either had, or intend to have, a flu vaccination.
  • Over four in five (83%) Australians aged 65 years and over had received a flu vaccination.
  • The majority of Australians continued to keep their distance from people outside the household (95%).
  • Less people avoided public spaces (74% compared to 85% in early May).
  • Around four in five (79%) people were avoiding social gatherings with people who did not live with them.
  • Fewer people purchased additional household supplies (13% compared to 47% in early April) or medical supplies (4% compared to 29% in early April).
     

Flu vaccination

Health authorities recommend that all Australians aged 6 months and older should receive flu vaccinations this year to reduce the risk of contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Go to www.health.gov.au for more information.

  • Over half (56%) of people living in Australia aged 18 years and over have already had a flu vaccination this year, a fivefold increase from 11% in early April 2020.
  • 83% of people aged 65 years and over had a flu vaccination compared to 48% of people aged 18–64 years.
  • People with a chronic condition were more likely than people without a chronic condition to have had a flu vaccination (65% compared with 51%).
  • Over 70 per cent of Australians intending to have a flu vaccination have now been vaccinated.
     
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  1. Refers to time of the 1st cycle interview in 1–6 April.
  2. Refers to time of the 5th cycle interview in 26–29 May.

Of the remaining 8.6 million Australian adults who have not had a flu vaccination this year, half (50% or 4.3 million) intend to have a flu vaccination this year.

One in five (22%) Australians do not intend to have a flu vaccination this year. This number has not changed significantly from responses in early April 2020 (25%).

Precautions

From mid-May, most states and territories had begun to ease restrictions on gatherings in public spaces, although limits on the number attending still applied.

Almost all Australians (99%) took one or more precautions in the previous week due to the spread of COVID-19. These included:

  • keeping distance from people (95%)
  • avoiding social gatherings (79%) or public spaces (74%)
  • disinfecting surfaces before using them (64%)
  • getting home deliveries (27%)
  • wearing a facemask (14%).
     

Less Australians aged 65 years and over (14%) reported that they were getting home deliveries as a precaution due to the spread of COVID-19 than those aged 18 years to 64 years (31%).

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Compared with early April, fewer people were taking the following precautions in late May:

  • purchasing additional household supplies (47% in early April compared with 13% in late May)
  • purchasing additional medical supplies (29% in early April compared with 4% in late May)
  • avoiding public spaces (88% in early April compared to 74% in late May).
     

The proportion of Australians who said they were wearing a facemask remained about the same – 17% in early April and 15% in early May.

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  1. Precautions taken in the four weeks before interview in early April.
  2. Precautions taken in the week before interview in early May.
  3. Precautions taken in the week before interview in late May.

Time spent on activities and activities while caring for children

Key findings

  • Over two in five (44%) Australians 18 years and over reported more time using their television, computer, phone, or other device.
  • Around 34% of Australians who were caring for children, reported an increase in time spent caring for children while also completing tasks like household chores or working from home.
     

Time spent on activities

The survey asked respondents if they spent more, less or about the same time on activities due to COVID-19 restrictions during the period early-May to late-May. These included:

  • sleep
  • household chores
  • caring for children or adults
  • volunteering
  • exercise or other physical activity
  • personal screen time
  • hobbies
  • cooking or baking.
     

The activities that Australians spent more time on during this period include:

  • personal screen time on a phone, computer, TV or other device (44% spent more time)
  • hobbies e.g. art, craft, board games, puzzles, video games or reading (36% spent more time)
  • household chores, gardening, yard work, projects or renovations (34% spent more time)
  • cooking or baking (34% spent more time) – including over a third of women (39%) and around a quarter of men (29%)
  • sleep, including overnight and naps (12% spent more time).
     

While three in five of those who participate in exercise (60%) reported no change in their time spent on exercise or other physical activity, almost one quarter (24%) spent more time on exercise or other physical activity, and around one in six (16%) spent less time.

Of the Australians who volunteer, almost two out of five (37%*) reported spending less time volunteering. About half (49%) reported spending the same amount of time volunteering, and 14 per cent reported spending more time.

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Activities while caring for children

Of the two in five (43%) Australians caring for children who reported spending more time on childcare activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, nearly four in five (79%) said they spent more time caring for children while doing other activities. Of these, the most common activities done whilst caring for children were indoor housework (81%) and working from home (43%).

Job status and skill development

Key findings

  • The proportion of people aged 18 years and over with a job working paid hours remained steady at 59% throughout the month of May.
  • One in eleven adults (9%) started, intended to start, or added to their study since 1 March 2020.
  • A third of these people (34%*) added to their skill development because of the impact of COVID-19 on their employment or existing study.
     

Current job status

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

Respondents to the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey 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 (given 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 1 shows the self-reported job status of Australians aged 18 years and over covering the period early-March to late-May.

Table 1 - 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)
 
%
%
%
%
%
%
Has a job
66.2
63.4
63.6
64.2
63.2
63.0
Working paid hours
64.0
55.8
56.6
59.0
58.7
59.1
Not working paid hours
2.2
7.6
7.0
5.3
4.5
3.8
Does not have a paid job(a)
33.8
36.6
36.4
35.8
36.8
37.0
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 the proportion of people with a job working paid hours remained steady at 59% throughout the month of May. The proportion of persons who reported they had a job but were not working paid hours decreased slightly over the same period, from 5.3% in early May to 3.8% in late May, however this decrease was not statistically significant.

The next results of the 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, will be published on Thursday 18 June.

While restrictions had begun to ease in most states and territories, many restrictions remained and any impact on jobs is yet to be seen in the survey results. The Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey provides more information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses operating in Australia. In the survey conducted between 13 May and 22 May 2020, more than 50% of businesses in every industry reported operating under modified conditions.

Skill development

From 1 March, 2020, just under 1.7 million (9%) Australians aged 18 years and over started or intended to start studying to gain a qualification or learn new skills, or added more elements to an existing course of study. A third of these people (34%*) said they engaged in this new or additional learning because of the impact COVID-19 had on their employment or existing study.

The main reasons for additional skill development included:

  • increasing skills in their current job (including compulsory training) (60%*)
  • increasing job prospects or changing careers (43%*)
  • having more time and/or affordable courses available that were of interest (14%).
     

New studies included self-guided learning as well as courses taught by an education or training provider.

Of the adult Australians not engaging in skill development, 5% wanted to engage in training, courses or self-learning but could not. The barriers to study included family or caring commitments, lack of time and cost restrictions.

What's next?

The ABS followed up the same people on 10 June 2020 to undertake the sixth cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics covered in the sixth cycle included:

  • job status
  • use of stimulus payments (including JobKeeper payments)
  • changes in spending
  • financial stress
  • return to selected activities (due to easing of restrictions)
  • intentions to travel.
     

Information from this sixth survey will be released on 29 June 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.

  • 4 in 5 adults had or intend to have a flu vaccination this year.
  • Most Australians are at least somewhat comfortable returning to their usual workplace (86%) and sending their children back to school or childcare (81%).
  • 3 in 5 Australians are looking forward to having larger gatherings of family and friends.
  • 3 in 5 Australians are looking forward to dining in at restaurants and cafes.
  • 95% of Australians are continuing to keep distance from people outside their household.
  • 79% are avoiding social gatherings with people who do not live with them.
  • 64% are disinfecting surfaces before using them.
  • Australians are uncomfortable with attending large public events (76%), attending indoor gatherings of 100+ people (66%), resuming air travel (63%) and using public transport (59%).


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

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1–11