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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

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

Reference period
August 2020
Released
31/08/2020

Key statistics

  • In mid-August, almost half (46%) Australians felt nervous at least some of the time.
  • 58% of people reported wearing facemasks due to COVID-19, including all Victorians.
  • Fewer people (77%) said they can raise $2,000 in a week compared with 88% in mid-June.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the monthly Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, a longitudinal survey which collects information from around 1,500 people. This survey is similar in design to the series of eight fortnightly surveys conducted between 1 April to 30 July 2020. The August 2020 survey was collected between 7 August and 17 August 2020 via online forms and telephone interviews.

The August 2020 survey collected information on:

  • emotional and mental wellbeing
  • precautions taken due to COVID-19
  • household financial stress
  • use of stimulus payments
  • returning to activities as COVID-19 restrictions ease
  • 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 of the changing social and economic situation for Australian households with particular focus on how they are faring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each cycle will collect information on different topics.

This survey introduces a new panel of respondents but follows on from the fortnightly survey of the same name, which conducted eight cycles from 12 April to 30 July 2020.  The results for the most recent fortnightly survey (and links to past releases) can be found in the Past and Future Releases menu of this publication.

In August 2020, there were an additional two detailed releases of results collected as part of the Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS) during May and June 2020. The most recent results from the detailed MPHS Household Impacts of COVID-19 supplement can be found here: Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, Detailed Release, June 2020.

Some topics have been repeated in both the fortnightly and monthly survey. Where relevant, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for both surveys.

From 7 August to 17 August, when this survey was conducted, Victoria was identifying an average of 350 cases daily, with a minimum of 278 and maximum of 466 new cases in a single day. New South Wales recorded average daily cases of 11 with a minimum of 5 and maximum of 22 in a single day. Other states and territories were continuing to have low numbers of COVID-19 cases (no higher than two cases but often days with no new cases).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 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 and 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)
  • 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 many states and territories from mid-May, with most between stage two and three at the time of the survey (with the exception of Victoria as described below).


The second wave of COVID-19 emerged in Victoria from mid-June 2020 leading to stronger restrictions and support within the state including:

  • stage 4 restrictions reinstated across metropolitan Melbourne, and stage 3 restrictions applied throughout regional Victoria
  • mandatory face coverings in public
  • a return to remote learning for schools with onsite access to schools and childcare restricted to essential workers with permits
  • closing onsite operation of retail, administration and some manufacturing businesses put in place for 6 weeks (with the exception of essential businesses)
  • a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment introduced for people who are required to take 14 days of leave to self-isolate or quarantine at home or care for someone with COVID-19.


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, 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 explanatory notes.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

Key findings

  • Almost half (46%) of Australians felt nervous at least some of the time.
  • Two in five (41%) felt restless or fidgety and that everything was an effort at least some of the time.
  • Almost one in six people (17%) who reported feelings impacting their emotional and mental wellbeing in August had discussed these with a doctor or other health professional.
     

Emotional and mental wellbeing

The survey asked Australians about feelings that impact on emotional and mental wellbeing. The feelings selected are those associated with experiences of anxiety and depression. People aged 18 years and over were asked how frequently in the previous 4 weeks they felt:

  • nervous
  • hopeless
  • restless or fidgety
  • everything was an effort
  • so depressed that nothing could cheer them up
  • worthless.


This iteration of the survey gathered information via online forms and telephone interviews. Previous iterations of the survey were collected via the telephone only. This change in survey methodology means that comparisons of results for these questions across the survey cycles should be treated with caution.

In mid-August, Australians reported experiencing feelings associated with poorer emotional and mental wellbeing:

  • almost half (46%) felt nervous at least some of the time
  • two in five (41%) felt restless or fidgety at least some of the time
  • two in five (41%) felt everything was an effort at least some of the time
  • one in four (24%) felt hopeless at least some of the time
  • one in six (17%) felt so depressed that nothing could cheer them up at least some of the time
  • one in six (16%) felt worthless at least some of the time.


The mid-August results were consistent across Australia with no significant differences reported by people in Victoria when compared to the rest of Australia.

By sex

In mid-August women were more likely than men to report at least some of the time feeling:

  • nervous (50% compared with 41%)
  • everything was an effort (45% compared with 36%).
     
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By age

In mid-August people aged 18 to 64 years were considerably more likely than those aged 65 years and over to have felt the following at least some of the time:

  • nervous (50% compared with 27%)
  • restless or fidgety (45% compared with 24%)
  • everything was an effort (45% compared with 24%)
  • hopeless (27% compared with 8%)
  • so depressed that nothing could cheer them up (19% compared with 9%)
  • worthless (18% compared with 7%).
     
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Seeing a doctor or other health professional

People who had experienced one or more of these feelings at least a little of the time were asked if they had discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional. In mid-August, one in six people (17%) who experienced these feelings had discussed them with a doctor or other health professional.

Precautions

Key findings

  • Three in five Australians (58%) reported wearing a facemask due to COVID-19 in mid-August compared with one in eight (13%) in late June.
  • Due to COVID-19, almost all people in Victoria reported wearing facemasks (99%), washing hands regularly (99%), keeping physical distance from people (97%) and avoiding large social gatherings (96%).
     

Precautions taken in the last week

From mid-May, most states and territories had begun to ease restrictions. When the survey was conducted in mid-August, however, the number of daily cases in Victoria was averaging around 350. The Victoria Government instituted Stage 4 restrictions in Greater Melbourne from 2 August and Stage 3 restrictions in the rest of Victoria from 5 August. The restrictions included curfews in Melbourne, mandatory facemask wearing and ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions across the State.

In mid-August, almost all Australians (99%) took one or more precautions in the previous week because of the spread of COVID-19. These included:

  • washing hands regularly (98%)
  • keeping physical distance from people (92%)
  • avoiding large social gatherings (82%), public spaces (70%) or public transport (70%)
  • disinfecting surfaces before using them (70%)
  • wearing a facemask (58%)
  • getting home deliveries (25%).


Males (62%) were more likely than females (55%) to wear a facemask.

People in Victoria were more likely than the rest of Australia to take certain precautions. These included:

  • wearing a facemask (99% compared with 44%)
  • keeping physical distance from people (97% compared with 91%)
  • avoiding large social gatherings (96% compared with 77%), public spaces (91% compared with 63%) or public transport (83% compared with 66%)
  • getting home deliveries (36% compared with 21%).
     
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  1. Precautions taken in the week before interview in mid-August.
  2. Including not shaking hands or hugging.
  3. Including friends or family who don’t live with you.
  4. Including public events.
  5. Including groceries and household products.

Compared with late June, more people were taking the following precautions in mid-August:

  • wearing a facemask (13% in June compared with 58% in August)
  • seeking advice from a medical professional (6% in June compared with 11% in August)
  • getting home deliveries (20% in June compared with 25% in August).


Compared with late June, more people aged 65 years and over got home deliveries in mid-August (9% in June compared with 16% in August).

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  1. Data on households 'getting home deliveries' as a precaution taken was not collected in early May.

Returning to activities

Key findings

  • Almost three in four Australians (72%) went shopping in physical retail stores in mid-August.
  • In mid-August, over half of Australians with children (57%) sent them to schools or child care in person, and over half of Australians with jobs (55%) attended workplaces in person.
  • Participation was much lower in all activities for people in Victoria compared with the rest of Australia, most likely reflecting the higher level of restrictions in that state at the time.
     

Activities as restrictions ease

The Australian Government has implemented a national three step plan for easing the COVID-19 restrictions. At the time of the survey, the majority of states and territories were in step 2 or 3 of the national plan. Due to high numbers of new cases in Victoria and clusters in New South Wales, a number of states and territories continued to delay their plans for easing restrictions. The Victoria Government instituted Stage 4 restrictions in Greater Melbourne from 2 August and Stage 3 restrictions in the rest of Victoria from 5 August. The restrictions included curfews in Melbourne, mandatory facemask wearing and ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions across the state.

The survey asked respondents if they had participated in selected activities in the previous week. 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
  • 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.


In mid-August, for Australians who usually participate in each activity, the survey found:

  • Almost three in four (72%) went shopping in physical retail stores in the previous week (the same as the 72% in mid-June)
  • Around three in five Australians with children (57%) sent them to school or child care in person in the previous week (compared with 85% in mid-June)
  • Over half of Australians with jobs (55%) attended their workplace in person in the previous week (similar to 56% in mid-June)
  • Around two in five Australians (41%) reported using public recreational areas (compared with 50% in mid-June)
  • Over a third of Australians (37%) reported dining in at restaurants or cafés (similar to 38% in mid-June).


Compared with the rest of Australia, participation in all activities was much lower in Victoria, most likely due to the stronger restrictions noted above. For people in Victoria:

  • Around two in five (45%) shopped in physical retail stores (compared with four in five (81%) for the rest of Australia)
  • Around a third (30%) who worked, attended their workplace in person (compared with two thirds (66%) for the rest of Australia)
  • Almost one in five (18%) with children, sent them to school or child care in person (compared with three quarters (74%) for the rest of Australia)
  • One in 50 (2%) dined in at restaurants or cafés (compared with one in two (50%) for the rest of Australia).
     
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  1. Includes beaches, parks, playgrounds and skate parks.
  2. Includes hairdressers, barbershop or beauty salon.

Changes in usual attendance in person at the workplace

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

Over half of Australians with jobs (55%) attended their workplace in the previous week. Of these Australians, when compared to the time before COVID-19 restrictions, the survey found:

  • 5% attended their workplace more often in the last week
  • 33% attended less often
  • 61% attended about the same.

Household financial stress and stimulus payments

Key findings

  • Three in four Australians (77%) reported their household could raise $2,000 for something important within a week, a decrease compared with 88% in mid-June.
  • Almost nine out of ten Australians (87%) reported their household expects to be able pay bills received in the next three months (compared with 94% in mid-June).
  • 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, over three in five (64%) were receiving less income than their usual pay, one in five (22%) were receiving about the same and one in seven (14%) were receiving more.
     

Ability to raise money for something important within a week

In mid-August, three in four Australians (77%) reported their household could raise $2,000 for something important within a week. This is a decrease compared with mid-June, when almost nine in ten Australians (88%) reported their household could raise $2,000 within a week.

In mid-August, approximately one in eight Australians (13%) reported their household could raise $500 but not $2,000 for something important within a week.

The proportion of Australian households unable to raise $500 within a week increased to 6% in mid-August, compared with 3% in mid-June.

Ability to pay bills

One in seven Australians (14%) reported their household was unable to pay one or more selected bills on time over the last twelve months due to a shortage of money.

The majority of Australians (87%) reported their household expects to be able to pay bills received in the next three months. This is a decrease compared with mid-June, when almost all Australians (94%) reported their household expected to be able pay bills they received in the following three months. One in 50 (2%) of Australians did not expect to be able to pay bills received in the next three months and 11% reported they did not know if they would be able to make these payments.

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 Explanatory Notes in the Methodology will provide further details of eligible recipients.

In mid-August approximately one in eight Australians (13%) said they were currently receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.

Persons aged 18 to 64 years were more likely to report receiving the Coronavirus Supplement than those aged 65 years and over (14% compared with 6%).

When broken down by sex:

  • 15% of females reported receiving the Coronavirus Supplement
  • 11% of males reported receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.


People receiving the Coronavirus Supplement most commonly reported using it to pay household bills (82%).

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

Stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the Coronavirus Supplement

Word cloud image showing stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the Coronavirus Supplement

Stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the Coronavirus Supplement

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

The approximate order from biggest to smallest:

Food/drink
Household bills
Mortgage/rent
Household goods
Medical services or supplies
Saving it
Paid credit cards/other personal debt
Clothing/footwear
Alcoholic beverages
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 Explanatory Notes in the Methodology will provide further details of eligible recipients.

In mid-August approximately one in seven Australians (14%) said they are currently receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer.

Persons aged 18 to 64 years were much more likely to be receiving the JobKeeper Payment than those aged 65 years and over (17% compared with 4%).

When broken down by sex:

  • 16% of males reported receiving the JobKeeper Payment
  • 13% of females reported receiving the JobKeeper Payment.


Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment, approximately three in five (64%) were receiving less income than their usual pay. One in five (22%) received about the same income, and one in seven (14%) received more income in mid-August.

People receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer most commonly reported using it to pay household bills (84%).

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

Stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the JobKeeper Payment

Word cloud image showing stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the JobKeeper Payment

Stimulus payment uses for persons aged 18 years and over receiving the JobKeeper Payment

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

The approximate order from biggest to smallest:

Household bills
Food/drink
Mortgage/rent
Household goods
Saving it
Clothing/footwear
Medical services or supplies
Paid credit cards/other personal debt
Recreation/leisure activities
Alcoholic beverages
Furnishings/household equipment

Job status

Key findings

  • The proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained stable at around 60% between early July and mid-August.
  • One in six people in Victoria (17%) reported having a job and not working paid hours in mid-August (compared to 5% for the rest of Australia).
     

Current job status

The survey collected information on the current (mid-August) job status of all respondents. The topic was also collected in the fortnightly survey between April and July. Comparisons are included to show how the employment status of people has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 mid-August. Only selected cycles from the fortnightly survey are included. The full time series is available with the downloadable tables.

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)Mid-May (4th survey cycle)Mid-June (6th survey cycle)Early July (8th survey cycle)August 2020 (monthly cycle 1)
 %%%%%%%
Has a job
66.2
63.4
63.6
63.2
64.6
63.5
68.2
Working paid hours
64.0
55.8
56.6
58.7
61.1
60.7
60.3
Not working paid hours
2.2
7.6
7.0
4.5
3.5
2.8
7.9
Does not have a paid job(c)
33.8
36.6
36.4
36.8
35.4
36.5
31.8
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 around 60% between early July and mid-August, while the proportion of people who had a job and were not working paid hours increased from 3% to 8%. This change was largely influenced by results in Victoria, where 17% of people reported having a job and not working paid hours (compared with 5% for the rest of Australia).

The results of the most recent Labour Force Survey, with data in respect of the two weeks from 28 June to 11 July, collected over the three weeks 5 July to 25 July, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, July 2020 (cat. no. 6202.0). The August 2020 results will be released on 17 September 2020.

What's next?

The ABS will follow up with the same people in mid-September to undertake the second cycle of the monthly Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics include:

  • job status, search intentions and leave availability
  • child care arrangements
  • health precautions and sources of information
  • household finances including stresses, spending and use of stimulus payments
  • participation in selected activities.


Information from the September survey will be released in early October 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.

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1 - 10

All data cubes

History of changes

Show all

03/09/2020 Word clouds in the Household financial stress and stimulus payments chapter have been updated.

Links to Past and future releases of this publication have been removed from the Key findings and Explanatory notes and a link in the Explanatory notes has been updated.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4940.0