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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on jobs, unpaid care, domestic work, mental health and related services, and life after COVID-19 restrictions

Reference period
6-10 July 2020
Released
27/07/2020

Key statistics

  • 18% of Australians expected it would take over a year before life returns to normal.
  • 9% thought life would never return to normal.
  • 16% of Victorians were unsure how long it would take for life to return to normal.
  • 60% of Australians consider their mental health to be excellent or very good.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the eighth Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, a longitudinal survey which collects information from approximately 1,000 people fortnightly via telephone. This was the last of eight fortnightly cycles with the same panel and was conducted between 6 July and 10 July 2020. A monthly collection with a new panel is planned from August 2020.

The eighth cycle collected information on:

  • life after COVID-19 restrictions
  • unpaid care and domestic work
  • mental health and related services
  • 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 most between stage two and three at the time of the survey
  • restrictions reinstated in regions of Victoria from 1 July related to new coronavirus clusters.
     

From 6 July to 10 July, when this survey was conducted, Victoria was identifying between 150 and 200 new cases daily. New South Wales numbers were steady between 10 and 15 new cases daily, while other states and territories were continuing to keep numbers low (no higher than three cases but often days with no new cases).

Due to the small sample size and associated high sample errors for this survey, it is not possible to meaningfully compare responses across all states and territories. Where possible, some analysis has been conducted comparing Victorian estimates with those for the rest of Australia.

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.

Life after COVID-19 restrictions

Key findings

  • Around one in five Australians (18%) expected it would take over a year before life returns to normal. One in eleven people (9%) thought life would never return to normal.
  • One in 50 people in Victoria (2%*) reported life had returned to normal or had not changed compared to one in five (21%) for the rest of Australia.
  • One in six Victorians (16%) were unsure how long it would take for life to return to normal compared to one in thirteen (8%) for the rest of Australia.
  • Almost a third of Australians (29%) would like to continue spending more time with family and friends after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
  • More than one in four people (28%) reported that there were no aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions they wanted to continue.
     

Time expected for life to return to normal

Respondents were asked to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on their health and lifestyle and how long they expected it would be before their lives returned to ‘normal’.

Around one in five Australians (18%) expected it would take over a year before life returns to normal. One in eleven people (9%) thought life would never return to normal. Conversely around one in six (16%) said their lives were either already back to normal or had not changed due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Almost one in four men (23%) expected life would return to normal within three months, while one in five women (21%) expected it would take four to six months.

At the time of this survey, the resurgence of coronavirus cases across parts of Victoria was leading to stronger restrictions in parts of the state. Only one in 50 people in Victoria (2%*) reported life had returned to normal or had not changed compared to one in five (21%) for the rest of Australia. One in six Victorians (16%) were unsure how long it would take for life to return to normal compared to 8% for the rest of Australia.

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  1. The definition of “normal” was left to the respondent. If asked, the interviewer gave examples such as "your life before COVID-19" or "before the 1st March".

Aspects of life to continue after COVID-19 restrictions

The survey asked respondents to think about life after the COVID-19 pandemic, and any aspects of life under the COVID-19 restrictions they would like to see continue in the future. Options included:

  • spending more time at home
  • working or studying from home
  • slower pace of life
  • spending less and saving more
  • stronger sense of community
  • spending more time with family and friends
  • connecting with friends and family online
  • spending more time on hobbies, cooking, baking or outdoors
  • taking more domestic holidays
  • less environmental impact.
     

In addition to the responses above, people were given the option to provide their own response, or to report none of the responses in the list. More than one in four people (28%) reported there were none of the selected aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions they wanted to continue. Men were more likely than women (35% compared to 20%), and people aged 65 years and over were more likely than people aged 18 to 64 years (41% compared to 24%) to report none of the selected aspects.

The following image provides readers with a word cloud with those aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions people would like to see continue in the future. More common responses are bigger, bolder and repeated in the image.

Persons aged 18 years and over, aspects of life to continue after COVID-19 restrictions(a)

Word cloud image for persons aged 18 years and over showing aspects of life to continue after COVID-19 restrictions

Persons aged 18 years and over, aspects of life to continue after COVID-19 restrictions(a)

The following image provides readers with a word cloud with those aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions people would like to see continue in the future. More common responses are bigger, bolder and repeated in the image.

The approximate order from biggest to smallest (number of times repeated in brackets):
Family time (repeated 6 times)
Spending less (repeated 7 times)
Pace of life (repeated 6 times)
Working from home (repeated 6 times)
Outdoors (repeated 6 times)
Hobbies (repeated 7 times)
Less environmental impact (repeated 7 times)
Hygiene (repeated 5 times)
Sense of community (repeated 6 times)
Telehealth (repeated 5 times)
Domestic holidays (repeated 7 times)
Cooking/baking (repeated 6 times)
Connecting online (repeated 6 times)
Working from home (repeated 5 times)
Home time (repeated 3 times)
  1.  Excludes “None of the above” responses.

 

The aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions that Australians reported they would most like to see continue were:

  • spending more time with family and friends (29%)
  • less environmental impact (27%)
  • spending less or saving more (25%)
  • working or studying from home (25%)
  • slower pace of life (23%).
     

These responses were popular across all groups regardless of age or sex. Some of the most common responses for people aged 65 years and over also included a stronger sense of community (21%) and taking more domestic holidays (16%). Women were more likely than men to want to continue aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions.

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  1. Multiple responses were allowed for all options except for “None of the above”.

Unpaid caring responsibilities and domestic work

Key findings

  • Of those with unpaid caring responsibilities between mid-June and early July, one in three (36%) increased their time spent caring for others compared to before COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Between mid-June and early July, one in six Australians (16%) spent more time on unpaid domestic activities, while four in five (83%) spent the same amount of time.
  • Women were twice as likely as men to report they performed most of the unpaid domestic work (80% compared to 39%) and more than three times as likely to report they performed most of the unpaid caring responsibilities (38% compared to 11%) in their household.
     

Unpaid caring responsibilities

The survey asked Australians with unpaid caring responsibilities to compare time spent in the last four weeks with time spent before COVID-19 restrictions started in March. Caring responsibilities include care of children aged less than 15 years, or assistance provided to persons aged 65 years and over, with disability or with one or more long-term health conditions.

One in three Australians (36%) reported spending time on unpaid caring responsibilities in the four weeks before the survey in early July. Compared to before COVID-19 restrictions began in March:

  • 36% increased their time spent on caring for others
  • 4% decreased their time spent
  • 60% spent the same amount of time.
     

Over one in three women (38%) and men (33%) reported an increase in unpaid time spent caring for others during this period. While around three in five men (63%) and women (57%) spent the same amount of time.

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  1. Caring for others includes care of children aged less than 15 years, or assistance provided to persons aged 65 years and over, with disability or with one or more long-term health conditions.


Of those who reported an increase in time spent on unpaid caring responsibilities:

  • one in three (35%) spent one to five hours more
  • one in four (26%*) spent six to ten hours more
  • two in five (39%) spent over ten hours more.
     

Respondents were asked who performed most of the unpaid caring responsibilities in their household (including multi-parent and single parent households):

  • women were more than three times as likely as men to report they performed most of the unpaid caring responsibilities (38% compared to 11%)
  • men were more likely than women to report that their spouse/partner performed most of the unpaid caring responsibilities (14% compared to 3%)
  • men were also more likely than women to report that unpaid caring responsibilities were split evenly in the household (10% compared to 4%).
     

Unpaid domestic work

The survey asked people about time spent on unpaid domestic work in the last four weeks compared with before COVID-19 restrictions started in March. Unpaid domestic work includes unpaid housework, laundry, food/drink preparation and clean-up, household shopping, management of finances, gardening, home maintenance and repairs.

Compared to before COVID-19 restrictions, for unpaid domestic work in the four weeks before early July 2020:

  • 16% spent more time
  • 1% spent less time
  • 83% spent the same amount of time.
     

A similar proportion of women (17%) and men (15%) reported an increase in time spent on unpaid domestic work.

For those who reported an increase in unpaid domestic work:

  • three in five (60%) spent one to five hours more
  • one in four (23%*) spent six to ten hours more
  • one in six (17%) spent over ten hours more.
     

Respondents were asked who performed most of the unpaid domestic work in their household (including multi-parent and single parent households):

  • women were twice as likely as men to report they performed most of the unpaid domestic work (80% compared to 39%)
  • men were more likely than women to report that their spouse/partner performed most of the unpaid domestic work (20% compared to 2%)
  • men were also more likely than women to report that unpaid domestic work was split evenly in the household (33% compared to 14%).
     
Download
  1. Unpaid domestic work includes unpaid housework, laundry, food/drink preparation and clean-up, household shopping, management of finances, gardening, home maintenance and repairs.
  2. Sex of spouse/partner is unknown.

Mental health and related services

Key findings

  • Six in seven Australians (86%) considered their mental health to be excellent, very good or good in July 2020.
  • Three in five Australians (60%) considered their mental health to be excellent or very good, while around one in seven (14%) reported their mental health as fair or poor.
  • One in five women (19%) used a mental health or support service since March 2020 compared with one in ten men (10%).
  • One in sixteen people (6%) reported they needed to use a mental health or support service since March 2020, but did not take it up.
     

Self-assessed mental health

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over to assess their mental health on a five-point scale ranging from excellent to poor.

Six in seven Australians (86%) considered their mental health to be excellent, very good or good in July 2020.

Three in five Australians (60%) considered their mental health to be excellent or very good, while one in seven (14%) reported their mental health as fair or poor.

A similar question was asked in the 2007 ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (see National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007 (cat. no. 4326.0)) and provides the most recent comparable measure on a national basis. In 2007, two in three Australians aged 18 to 85 years (67%) considered their mental health to be excellent or very good while one in eleven (9%) reported their mental health as fair or poor.

Download
  1. 2007 ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.


In June 2020, people aged 18 to 64 years were less likely than those aged 65 years and over to have reported their mental health to be excellent or very good (57% compared with 69%).

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Use of mental health or support services during COVID-19

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over about their use of mental health or support services since March 2020. The services asked about were:

  • general practitioners (GPs) for mental health
  • psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health specialists
  • other health workers such as social workers, nurses and occupational therapists
  • crisis support or counselling services such as Lifeline
  • online mental health information such as Head to Health.
     

One in seven (14%) reported using at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020. The most frequently used services were:

  • GPs for mental health purposes (55%)
  • psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health specialist (41%)
  • online mental health information (26%).
     

Women were more likely than men (19% compared with 10%) to report using at least one mental health or support service since March 2020. Similarly, people aged 18 to 64 years were twice as likely as those aged 65 years or over (16% compared with 7%) to report using a mental health or support service.

Patterns of service use

Of those who reported using at least one mental health service since 1 March 2020:

  • almost one in five (18%*) used a new service they had not used before
  • more than half (56%*) reported their use had stayed the same
  • around two in five people (38%*) reported that their use of services had increased.
     

One in sixteen people (6%) reported they needed to use a mental health or support service since March 2020, but did not take it up.

Job status

Key findings

  • The proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained stable at 61% between late June and early July.
  • Over half of Australians (57%) remained in a job (paid or unpaid) throughout all eight interviews of the survey between early March and early July.
  • One in nine Australians (11%) experienced one or more changes to their job status throughout the eight interviews between early March and early July.
     

Current job status

The survey collected information on the current (early July) 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 is around seven times greater than for 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 1 shows the self-reported job status of Australians aged 18 years and over covering the period early March to early July.

Table 1 - Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status

 Early March (1st survey cycle)(a)Early April (1st survey cycle)(b)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)Late June (7th survey cycle)Early July (8th survey cycle)
 %%%%%%%%%
Has a job
66.2
63.4
63.6
64.2
63.2
63.0
64.6
64.2
63.5
Working paid hours
64.0
55.8
56.6
59.0
58.7
59.1
61.1
61.4
60.7
Not working paid hours
2.2
7.6
7.0
5.3
4.5
3.8
3.5
2.8
2.8
Does not have a paid job(c)
33.8
36.6
36.4
35.8
36.8
37.0
35.4
35.8
36.5
a. Job situation four weeks prior to survey in early April.
b. Current job situation at time of survey in early April.
c. 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 Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained stable at 61% between late June and early July, while the proportion of people who had a job but were not working paid hours also remained unchanged at 3%.

Longitudinal analysis of employment data across all eight survey cycles found that, between early March and early July:

  • over half (57%) of Australians aged 18 years and over had a job (paid or unpaid) in all eight interviews
  • one in three (32%) did not have a paid job in all eight interviews
  • one in nine (11%) experienced one or more changes to their job status throughout the eight interviews.
     

The results of the most recent Labour Force Survey, with data in respect of the first two weeks of June, collected over a three-week period from 7 June to 27 June, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, June 2020 (cat. no. 6202.0). The July 2020 results will be released on 13 August 2020.

What's next?

This is the final fortnightly cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The ABS will continue with a monthly survey using a new panel of respondents from August 2020.

The first survey will include topics such as:

  • the impacts of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the lives of Australians
  • involvement in the community
  • employment and housing
  • general health and wellbeing.
     

The ABS would like to thank all participants for their involvement in the current 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 COVID-19 Survey results

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Household impacts of COVID-19 survey results from 6 to 10 July 2020 including wellbeing, behavioural and social measures.

  • 3 in 5 Australians considered their mental health to be excellent or very good.
  • 1 in 5 expected it would take over a year before life returns to normal.
  • 1 in 11 thought life would never return to normal.
  • Only 1 in 50 Victorians reported life had returned to normal or had not changed compared to 1 in 5 for the rest of Australia.
  • Women were more likely than men to report that they perform most of the unpaid domestic work (80% compared to 39%) and most of the unpaid caring responsibilities (38% compared to 11%).
  • Aspects of life under restrictions that Australians would like to see continue were: spending more time with family and friends (29%), less environmental impact (27%), spending less or saving more (25%), working or studying from home (25%), and a slower pace of life (23%).
  • 28% reported that there were no aspects of life under restrictions they wanted to continue.
  • 1 in 9 experienced changes to their job status between early March and early July.


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

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1-11