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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
December 2020
Released
19/02/2021

Key statistics

  • In December, 73% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended for them.
  • 92% of Australians thought about COVID-19 in the last week.
  • Over one in four (28%) people felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19 in the last week.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, a longitudinal survey which collects information from the same panel each month. The December 2020 survey was run between 11 and 20 December 2020 via online forms and telephone interviews. The survey included 3,104 continuing participants, a response rate of 89% of the sample.

The December 2020 survey collected information on:

  • attitudes toward COVID-19 and vaccines
  • symptom testing behaviours
  • self-assessed health and mental health
  • use of mental health services
  • unpaid work on selected activities
  • participation in selected activities
  • use of stimulus payments
  • mortgage and rent payments
  • changes to living arrangements
  • changes to job status.

The scope of the survey was people 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 collects information on different topics.

From August 2020, the survey introduced a new panel of respondents but kept a similar design to the eight fortnightly surveys conducted from 1 April to 10 July 2020. The results for all past publications can be accessed by selecting ‘View all releases’ in the header of this publication.

Some topics have been repeated in both the fortnightly and monthly surveys. Where relevant, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for both surveys. The monthly survey gathered information via online forms and telephone interviews. The previous fortnightly survey was collected via the telephone only. This change in survey methodology means that comparing topics across the two survey iterations should be treated with caution.

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 MoEs refer to the publication Methodology.

COVID-19 pandemic progress and interventions

From 11 to 20 December 2020, when this survey was conducted, most newly acquired cases in Australia were from overseas and managed through hotel quarantine. New South Wales identified a cluster of locally transmitted cases towards the end of enumeration, which led to reintroduced restrictions in parts of the state to manage the spread. Over the time interviews were conducted, the cluster in New South Wales had reached around 83 cases.

Other states and territories continued to have low daily cases during the survey.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, initiatives in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy included:

  • ongoing international travel restrictions 
  • border control measures for some states and territories
  • two economic stimulus packages (12 March and 22 March 2020)
  • 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 2020)
  • stimulus payments including:
    • a Coronavirus Supplement paid fortnightly from 27 April 2020 to eligible income support recipients along with their usual payments (reduced in September 2020 and January 2021, and extended until March 2021)
    • a JobKeeper Payment passed in legislation on 15 April 2020 and paid to employers to keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the COVID-19 restrictions (reduced to include two tiers in September 2020 and January 2021, and extended until March 2021)
  • various restrictions, including shutting down non-essential services, limits on gatherings and social distancing rules from March 2020
  • a guided easing of these restrictions in many states and territories using the National Cabinet agreed three step framework introduced in early May 2020.

At the time of the survey, many states and territories were in the final stage of easing restrictions but progress had slowed in some areas due to the cluster in New South Wales.

New South Wales implemented strict lockdown restrictions in Sydney’s Northern Beaches region at the end of enumeration.

Victoria had moved into the last step in the roadmap for reopening Victoria. This last stage included:

  • no restrictions on reasons to leave home
  • face masks to be worn in crowded outdoor spaces and indoor public spaces
  • venues and facilities to have COVIDSafe plans, density limits, record keeping and regular cleaning
  • phased plans for returning to workplaces
  • a return to all sports and recreation with limits on numbers of people.

COVID-19 attitudes

Key findings

  • In December, 92% of people thought about COVID-19, 59% actively sought information about COVID-19 and 28% felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19, in the last week.
  • More than four in five (84%) people reported a very good (45%) or good (39%) understanding of their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Attitude towards COVID-19

In December, people were asked about their attitude towards COVID-19 in the last week, and how this compared to six months ago. The survey asked how often they had:

  • thought about COVID-19
  • actively sought information about COVID-19
  • felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19.

In the last week,

  • a majority (92%) of people thought about COVID-19
  • three in five (59%) actively sought information about COVID-19
  • over one in four (28%) felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19.

Thinking about COVID-19

In the last week, 31% of people reported they thought about COVID-19 several times a day, 21% once a day, 24% several times that week and 16% once in that week.

Those who thought about COVID-19 several times a day in the last week were more likely to be:

  • people aged 65 years and over (36%) than those aged 18 to 64 years (30%)
  • people in Victoria (38%) than those in New South Wales (29%) or Queensland (26%)
  • people with disability (39%) than those with no disability (29%)
  • people with a long-term health condition (39%) than those without a long-term health condition (26%).

Compared to six months ago, over half (56%) of people thought about COVID-19 less frequently in the last week.

Seeking information about COVID-19

In the last week, almost three in five (59%) people actively sought information about COVID-19 at least once.

Those who actively sought information about COVID-19 in the last week were more likely to be:

  • women (63%) than men (55%)
  • people aged 18 to 64 years (61%) than those aged 65 years and over (48%)
  • people born overseas (65%) than those born in Australia (56%). 

Compared to six months ago, 59% of people actively sought information about COVID-19 less frequently in the last week.

Feeling overwhelmed because COVID-19

Those who felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19 in the last week (28%) were more likely to be:

  • women (33%) than men (23%)
  • people aged 18 to 64 years (30%) than those aged 65 years and over (20%)
  • people born overseas (37%) than those born in Australia (24%)
  • people with disability (32%) than those without disability (26%).

Compared to six months ago, 57% of people reported they felt overwhelmed because of COVID-19 less frequently in the last week.

Understanding of state and territory recommendations and restrictions

In December, people were asked to rate their understanding of their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how closely they were following them. At the time of the survey, many states and territories were in late stages of easing restrictions. In the last days of enumeration, New South Wales reintroduced some restrictions in parts of the state, relating to a cluster of locally transmitted cases.

More than four in five (84%) people rated their understanding of their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions as very good (45%) or good (39%).

  1. Respondent's rating of their understanding of their state or territory's recommendations or restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19
  2. Rest of Australia includes Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory

Those who reported a very good understanding of their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions were more likely to be:

  • people aged 65 years and over (53%) than those aged 18 to 64 years (43%)
  • people in Western Australia (61%) than those in New South Wales (36%), Victoria (50%), Queensland (43%), South Australia (45%) and the rest of Australia (Tasmania/Northern Territory/Australian Capital Territory) (48%)
  • people in family households without children (48%) than those living alone (42%).

The survey then asked how well Australians felt other people understood and followed their state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Around half (52%) of Australians felt that other people’s understanding of recommendations and restrictions was good or very good. Over one in three (34%) Australians felt other people’s understanding was average, and one in 11 (9%) felt it was poor or very poor.

Almost all (95%) people reported that they were following their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • 28% were following them exactly
  • 47% were following them very closely
  • 20% were following them somewhat closely.

Those who were following their own state or territory’s recommendations and restrictions exactly were more likely to be:

  • people in Victoria (36%) and South Australia (34%) than those in New South Wales (22%), Queensland (25%), Western Australia (27%) and the rest of Australia (Tasmania/Northern Territory/Australian Capital Territory) (28%)
  • people in family households without children (32%) than those in family households with children (25%)
  • people with disability (35%) than those without disability (26%).

Over three in four (78%) people felt that other people were following their state or and territory’s recommendations and restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines

Key findings

  • In December, 73% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended for them.
  • The most commonly reported factors that would ‘very much’ or ‘completely’ affect the decision to get vaccinated were whether the vaccine has been in use for a long time with no serious side-effects (67%) and whether it is recommended by their GP or other health professional (61%) or the Department of Health (58%).
  • The main concerns of those who didn’t agree they would get vaccinated were relating to potential side-effects (82%) and effectiveness of the vaccine (61%).

Attitudes about COVID-19 vaccines

The survey asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements about a COVID-19 vaccine. The statements included:

  • if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available and is recommended for me, I would get it
  • I would try to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it was available to me
  • a vaccine can help control the spread of COVID-19
  • when everyone else is vaccinated against COVID-19, then I don't have to get vaccinated.

In December 2020, around three in four (73%) Australians agreed or strongly agreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended for them. The survey found:

  • men were more likely than women to agree or strongly agree with getting a COVID-19 vaccine (76% compared with 71%)
  • people aged 65 years and over were more likely than those aged 18 to 64 years (83% compared with 71%)
  • people without a job were more likely than those with a job (79% compared with 71%)
  • people with a long-term health condition were more likely than those without a long-term health condition (78% compared with 70%).

Around one in eight (12%) of people disagreed or strongly disagreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended for them. The survey found:

  • people living alone (16%) and people in family households with children (14%) were more likely to disagree than those in family households without children (9%)
  • people born in Australia were more likely to disagree than those born overseas (14% compared with 8%).

Almost three in five (58%) people agreed or strongly agreed that they would try to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them. The survey found:

  • people aged 65 years and over were more likely to agree or strongly agree with this statement than those aged 18 to 64 years (71% compared with 54%)
  • people in New South Wales (62%) were more likely to agree than those in Queensland (52%) and South Australia (53%)
  • people without a job were more likely to agree than those with a job (64% compared with 55%)
  • people with disability were more likely to agree than those with no disability (62% compared with 56%)
  • people with a long-term health condition were more likely to agree than those without a long-term health condition (64% compared with 53%).

Almost four in five (79%) people agreed or strongly agreed that a vaccine can help control the spread of COVID-19. The survey found:

  • people aged 65 years and over were more likely to agree or strongly agree than those aged 18 to 64 years (83% compared with 78%)
  • people in New South Wales (80%), Victoria (80%), Western Australia (81%) and the Rest of Australia (Tasmania/Northern Territory/Australian Capital Territory) (81%) were more likely to agree than those in South Australia (73%).

Factors affecting decision to get a COVID-19 vaccination

People were asked the extent to which different factors would affect their decision to get a COVID-19 vaccination if it becomes available. The most common factors reported to affect decisions were:

  • whether the vaccine has been in use for a long time with no serious side-effects (67% reported very much or completely)
  • recommendation from their GP or other health professional (61% reported very much or completely)
  • recommendation of a Department of Health (58% reported very much or completely)
  • whether a vaccine is required for international travel (49% reported very much or completely)
  • whether a high vaccination uptake would ease/lift restrictions on domestic movement and travel (47% reported very much or completely
  • whether a high vaccination uptake would ease/lift restrictions on gathering in groups (45% reported very much or completely).

Reasons to not get a COVID-19 vaccination

People who disagreed or strongly disagreed (12%), or neither agreed nor disagreed (15%), that they would get a COVID-19 vaccination were asked why they would not get one. The main reasons include:

  • concerns relating to potential side-effects (82%)
  • concerns about how effective the COVID-19 vaccine might be (61%).

COVID-19 testing

Key findings

  • In December, half (50%) of Australians reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms, while 73% of the remainder of people would if they had severe respiratory infection symptoms.

Likelihood of getting a COVID-19 test for respiratory infection symptoms

In December 2020, people were asked how likely they were to get a COVID-19 test if they had mild or severe symptoms of a respiratory infection. Similar questions were also asked in the October survey.

Half (50%) of Australians reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms, similar to October (53%).

Those who would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms were more likely to be:

  • people aged 65 years and over (60%) than those aged 18 to 64 years (48%)
  • people in Victoria (60%) than those in New South Wales (51%), Queensland (42%), Western Australia (36%) and the Rest of Australia (Tasmania/Northern Territory/Australian Capital Territory) (44%)
  • people in family households without children (55%) than those in family households with children (43%) 
  • people with a long-term health condition (54%) than those without a long-term health condition (47%).

In December, common reasons people would not get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms included:

  • they thought the symptoms were unrelated to COVID-19 (63%, similar to 61% in October)
  • there were few or no cases of COVID-19 where they live (47%, an increase from 38% in October)
  • they had not been in contact with anyone who had COVID-19 symptoms (42%, an increase from 34% in October)
  • they did not feel the symptoms were serious enough (41%, similar to 44% in October).

 

Of those who may not get a COVID-19 test for mild symptoms, almost three quarters (73%) reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had severe respiratory infection symptoms.

Those who would definitely get a COVID-19 test only if they had severe respiratory infection symptoms were more likely to be:

  • people in New South Wales (76%), Victoria (75%) and Queensland (74%) than those in Western Australia (62%)
  • people in family households with children (76%) than those living alone (65%).

Self-assessed health

Key findings

  • Over half (54%) of Australians reported their health in general to be excellent or very good in December 2020.
  • Just under half (47%) of Australians reported their mental health to be excellent or very good. Around one in five (22%) Australians reported their mental health as fair or poor.
  • Younger people aged 18 to 34 years were more likely to have reported their mental health as fair or poor (27%) compared with people aged 65 years and over (15%).

General health and wellbeing

In December 2020, the survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over to assess their health in general, as well as their mental health, on a five-point scale ranging from excellent to poor.

The December survey collected information via online forms and telephone interviews. Self-assessed mental health was also asked in July 2020, via the telephone only. This change in survey methodology means that comparisons of self-assessed mental health across the survey cycles should be treated with caution.

Self-assessed health

In December 2020:

  • over half (54%) of Australians reported their health in general to be excellent or very good
  • almost one in three (30%) reported their health to be good
  • around one in six (16%) reported their health as fair or poor.

These proportions are similar to those in 2017-18 when this was most recently asked in the ABS National Health Survey (see self-assessed health status - 2017-18 financial year).

Self-assessed mental health

Just under half (47%) of Australians reported their mental health to be excellent or very good in December 2020. Over one in five (22%) reported their mental health as fair or poor.

In December 2020:

  • men were more likely than women to report their mental health as excellent or very good (51% compared with 43%)
  • similar proportions of men (20%) and women (23%) reported their mental health to be fair or poor
  • people aged 18 to 34 years were more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor than people aged 65 years and over (27% compared with 15%).

Australians with disability as reported in this survey were more than twice as likely to report their mental health was fair or poor in December 2020 than people without disability (38% compared with 16%).

  1. Whether a person has a disability has been derived from a subset of questions from the ABS’s Short Disability Module. These questions are not designed to estimate prevalence but rather allow for the broad comparison of the characteristics of people with and without disability

Use of mental health services

Key findings

  • One in five (19%) Australians aged 18 years and over reported using at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020.
  • Women were twice as likely as men (25% compared with 13%) to have used at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020.
  • One in 14 (7%) people reported they needed to, but did not use, a mental health or support service since 1 March 2020.

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 1 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 five (19%) Australians 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 (13%)
  • psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health specialists (9%)
  • online mental health information (3%)
  • other health workers (3%).

Women were almost twice as likely as men (25% compared with 13%) to have used at least one mental health or support service since March 2020.

People with disability, as reported in this survey, were twice as likely to report using at least one mental health or support service than people without disability (30% compared with 15%).

Use of mental health or support services decreased with age. One in four (25%) people aged 18 to 34 years reported using at least one mental health or support service, compared with one in five (19%) people aged 35 to 64 years and one in 11 (9%) people aged 65 years or over.

One in four (25%) people in Victoria reported using at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020, compared with one in six (17%) people living in the rest of Australia.

Patterns of mental health service use

One in 14 (7%) Australians aged 18 years and over reported they needed, but did not use, a mental health or support service since 1 March 2020.

Of people who used at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020:

  • around one in three (30%) reported that their use of services had increased
  • almost three in five (58%) reported their use of services had stayed the same
  • the remainder (12%) reported their use of services had decreased.

Around one in three (29%) people who used at least one mental health or support service since 1 March 2020 used a service they had not used before.

Of people with disability as reported in this survey, 11% reported needing, but not using, a mental health or support service since 1 March 2020, compared with 5% of people without disability.

Unpaid work

Key findings

  • In December 2020, women were twice as likely as men to have spent 20 or more hours in the last week on caring for and supervising children (27% compared with 13%).
  • Women were almost twice as likely as men to have spent five hours or more on unpaid indoor housework (54% compared with 28%).

Paid work in the last week

The survey asked people if they did any work in a job, business or farm in the last week. For people who reported paid work in the last week, an additional question was asked regarding the number of paid hours worked.

In the last week:

  • two in three (66%) men and over half (55%) of women worked paid hours in a job, business or farm
  • over seven in ten (71%) people aged 18 to 64 years worked paid hours in a job, business or farm
  • almost two in five (38%) people with disability worked paid hours in a job, business or farm (compared with two in three (66%) people without disability)
  • almost half (49%) of people who live alone did not work paid or unpaid hours in a job, business or farm.

Hours spent on unpaid work and care

The survey asked how many hours people spent in the last week on a range of unpaid care activities. The activities included:

  • caring for and supervising children
  • caring for adults
  • indoor housework including cleaning and laundry
  • outdoor housework and repairs
  • cooking and baking
  • shopping for groceries and household essentials.

For December 2020, in the last week:

  • women were twice as likely as men to have spent 20 or more hours a week on unpaid caring or supervision of children (27% compared to 13%)
  • around one in three (34%) people with a job spent five or more hours on unpaid care or supervision of children compared with one in four (25%) people without a job.
  • people aged 18 to 64 years were more likely to have spent 10 or more unpaid hours caring or supervising children compared with people aged 65 years and over (29% compared with 10%)
  • women were almost twice as likely as men to have spent five or more hours on unpaid indoor housework (54% compared with 28%)
  • men were more likely than women to have spent less than one hour on unpaid indoor housework (8% compared with 3%).
  • almost one in three (30%) people in family households with children spent 10 or more hours on unpaid indoor housework, compared with 14% of people in family households without children and 9% people living alone
  • while a similar proportion of men (34%) and women (37%) spent 1 to 4 hours on unpaid outdoor housework and repairs, men (18%) were more likely than women (11%) to have spent 5 to 9 hours on unpaid outdoor housework and repairs
  • just over half (54%) of women spent five unpaid hours or more cooking and baking, compared with almost a third of men (31%).
  1. Indoor housework includes cleaning and laundry
  1. 'Children' refers to people 15 years and under
  2. 'Care or supervision of children' includes playing, talking, teaching, learning, reading and other activities with them, such as taking children to school and picking them up
  3. 'Adults' refers to people 16 years and over
  4. Indoor housework includes cleaning and laundry

Change in time spent on unpaid work and care

The survey asked people if time spent on unpaid activities in the last week had changed when to compared with December 2019.

Comparing December 2020 with December 2019:

  • more women than men reported spending more time on unpaid care or supervision of children (12% compared with 8%)
  • women were almost twice as likely as men to have reported spending more time on unpaid indoor housework (19% compared with 10%)
  • one in five women (20%) reported spending more time on unpaid cooking and baking compared with one in nine men (11%).
  1. Compared to time spent in December 2019
  2. 'Children' refers to people 15 years and under
  3. 'Care or supervision of children' includes playing, talking, teaching, learning, reading and other activities with them, such as taking children to school and picking them up
  4. 'Adults' refers to people 16 years and over
  5. Indoor housework includes cleaning and laundry
  1. Compared to time spent in December 2019
  2. 'Children' refers to people 15 years and under
  3. 'Care or supervision of children' includes playing, talking, teaching, learning, reading and other activities with them, such as taking children to school and picking them up
  4. 'Adults' refers to people 16 years and over
  5. Indoor housework includes cleaning and laundry

Frequency of activities

Key findings

  • Going shopping one or more times a week was the most common selected activity for Australians in the last four weeks (97%).
  • In December, the biggest increase for participation in activities one or more times a week from October was for visiting bars or restaurants in person (34% in December compared with 23% in October).

Participation in activities

The survey asked people to reflect on how often they participated in selected activities in the last four weeks. The same topic was asked in October and September, and included a comparison to participation in activities before the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

The selected activities included:

  • working from home (for those with a job)
  • using public transport
  • visiting bars or restaurants in person
  • attending social gatherings of more than 10 people
  • eating takeaway food
  • visiting a public park or recreation area
  • exercising at a gym or playing sport
  • shopping in a physical store
  • going on holiday for two nights or more.

Three new activities were collected in the December survey, they included:

  • doing unpaid voluntary work for an organisation or group
  • attending a cultural event or venue
  • visiting a casino or gaming area.

In the last four weeks, the activities Australians most often participated in one or more times a week included:

  • going shopping (83%)
  • eating takeaway food (52%)
  • visiting a public park or recreation area (46%).

This was consistent with the activities Australians reported participating in most often in October:

  • going shopping (77%)
  • eating takeaway food (48%)
  • visiting a public park or recreation area (44%).

The biggest increase for participation in activities one or more times a week from October to December was for:

  • visiting bars or restaurants in person (34% in December compared with 23% in October)
  • attending social gatherings of more than 10 people (18% in December compared with 12% October).

This increase may have been related to the time of year as well as the easing of restrictions.

At the time of the survey, many states and territories were in late stages of easing restrictions, including Victoria. Towards the end of enumeration, New South Wales reintroduced some restrictions in parts of the state, relating to a cluster of locally transmitted cases.

When this topic was last included in October, Victoria had a number of restrictions in place. The easing of restrictions in Victoria corresponded with an increase in participation for a number of activities.

For people in Victoria, the biggest increase in participation one or more times a week from October to December 2020 was for:

  • visiting bars or restaurants in person (32% in December compared with 4% in October)
  • exercising at a gym or playing sport (24% in December compared with 9% in October)
  • shopping in physical stores (83% in December compared with 69% in October)
  • attending social gatherings of more than 10 people (14% in December compared with 1% in October).
  1. Proportion is based on people 18 years and over with a job at the time of the survey

In December, the survey asked for the first time about participation in three new activities. Participation one or more times a week was reported for:

  • unpaid voluntary work for an organisation or group (8% in December compared with 12% prior to March)
  • attending a cultural event or venue (3% in December compared with 6% prior to March)
  • visiting a casino or gaming area (2% in both December and prior to March).

In December, people aged 65 years and over were more than twice as likely to participate in unpaid voluntary work for an organization or group than people aged 18 to 64 years (14% compared with 6%).

Men were more likely than women to report visiting a casino or gaming area one or more times a week (4% compared with 1%).

Frequency of working from home

The survey asked people with a job about how often they worked from home in the last four weeks. In December, about two in five (39%) Australians with a job reported working from home one or more times a week in the last four weeks.

In December, people with jobs in Victoria and New South Wales were more likely than the rest of Australia to work from home one or more times a week in the last four weeks:

  • people with a job in Victoria (47%)
  • people with a job in New South Wales (43%)
  • people with a job in the rest of Australia (31%).

Stimulus payments

Key findings

  • In December 2020, paying household bills was the most common use of the JobKeeper Payment (79%).

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. From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, changes to the JobKeeper Payment came into effect. Employers and sole traders were able to claim either $1,200 or $750 per fortnight per employee based on their eligibility. Further details on eligible recipients is provided in the survey Methodology.

In December 2020, approximately one in 20 (5%) Australians reported currently receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer. Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment, over three in five (63%*) reported receiving the $1,200 higher rate payment, one in four (25%*) reported receiving the $750 lower rate payment and one in eight (12%) did not know what rate they were receiving.

People aged 18 to 64 years were more likely to report receiving the JobKeeper Payment than those aged 65 years and over (6% compared with 1%).

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • three in four (75%*) reported receiving less income than their usual pay
  • one in six (17%) were receiving about the same income
  • one in 11 (9%) reported they were receiving more income.

When broken down by state, the JobKeeper Payment was received by:

  • 7% of people living in Victoria (73%* said they were receiving less than their usual pay)
  • 6% of people living in New South Wales (92%* said they were receiving less than their usual pay)
  • 4% of people living in Queensland and South Australia.

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment whose usual pay is more than what they are receiving from the JobKeeper Payment, just over half (52%*) were being paid the difference between the JobKeeper Payment and their usual pay by their employer.

Of Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • 29%* reported mainly using the payment on mortgage or rent payments
  • 27%* reported mainly using the payment on household bills.

The survey also asked JobKeeper Payment recipients to select all of the uses of the payment. Paying household bills (79%*) was the most commonly reported use of the JobKeeper Payment, followed by purchasing household supplies, including groceries (63%*) and mortgage or rent payments (56%*).

  1. Proportion of people receiving the JobKeeper Payment who reported using the supplement for each item in the last four weeks
  2. Respondents may have reported more than one use of the stimulus payment

Mortgage and rent payments

Key findings

  • Since March 2020, around one in eight (13%) owners with a mortgage had experienced at least one change to their mortgage repayments - for their own home, or an investment property.
  • One in 20 (5%) renters had their rent payment reduced at some time since March 2020.

Changes to mortgage and rent payments

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years or over whether they or anyone else in their household experienced a range of changes to their mortgage or rent payments in the last four weeks and since March 2020.

Owners with a mortgage

Two in five (41%) Australians reported they were owners with a mortgage on their home. Around one in eight (13%) owners with a mortgage reported since March 2020, they had experienced at least one change to their mortgage repayments - either to their own home, or an investment property.

Six in seven (86%*) of the owners with a mortgage who experienced at least one change to their mortgage repayments, attributed the change either directly, indirectly, or in part to COVID-19.

For owners with a mortgage, since March 2020:

  • 7% had mortgage payments for their dwelling deferred
  • 6% had mortgage repayments for their dwelling reduced (excluding interest rate reductions)
  • 1% reported the mortgage repayments for their dwelling were in arrears
  • 1% reported their mortgage repayments for an investment property were either deferred or in arrears
  • 1% had mortgage repayments for an investment property reduced (excluding interest rate reductions).

Around one in 17 (6%) owners with a mortgage reported experiencing at least one change to mortgage repayments in the last four weeks.

For owners with a mortgage in the last four weeks:

  • 3% had the mortgage payment for their dwelling reduced (excluding interest rate reductions)
  • 2% had the mortgage payment for their dwelling deferred.

Renters

Over one in four (28%) Australians reported they were renters in their home. One in 12 (8%) renters reported since March 2020 they had experienced at least one change to their rent payments or investment property mortgage repayments. Nine in ten (90%*) of these reported this was either directly, indirectly, or in part due to COVID-19.

For renters, since March 2020:

  • 5% had the rental payment for their dwelling reduced
  • 3% reported the rental payment for their dwelling had been deferred, or it was in arrears.

Around one in 25 (4%) renters reported they had experienced these changes in the last four weeks.

For renters in the last four weeks:

  • 2% had the rental payment for their dwelling reduced
  • 2% reported the rental payment for their dwelling had been deferred, or it was in arrears.

Recent experience of housing stress

The survey then asked if people had experienced stress to do with mortgage or rent payments in the last four weeks.

For owners with a mortgage in December 2020:

  • 7% reported stress related to difficulties paying the mortgage for their home
  • 1% reported stress related to difficulties paying the mortgage for an investment property.

For renters in December 2020, around one in eight (12%) reported rental stress, including difficulty paying rent or fear of eviction.

Temporary living arrangements

Key findings

  • Since 1 March 2020, one in 25 (4%) Australians reported they had moved, temporarily or long-term, into another household due to COVID-19.
  • One in 14 (7%) reported someone had moved in to their household temporarily due to COVID-19 and one in 50 (2%) reported someone had moved in long-term.

People who moved into another household due to COVID-19

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years or over about changes to their living arrangements since 1 March 2020 due to COVID-19. This included their own movements as well as those of others in their household.

Since 1 March 2020, one in 25 (4%) Australians reported they had moved, temporarily or long-term, into another household due to COVID-19.

People who moved did so for a variety of reasons:

  • one in four (26%*) moved for their own financial reasons (e.g. to save on rent or other expenses)
  • one in five (19%*) moved to minimise COVID-19 risks
  • one in eight (12%) moved for emotional support (due to feeling isolated or alone)
  • one in ten (10%) moved to give emotional support to someone feeling isolated or alone.

People who had someone else move into their household due to COVID-19

The survey also asked whether someone had moved into their household since 1 March due to COVID-19. This included those who had since moved out.

When asked whether anyone else had moved into the household due to COVID-19:

  • one in 14 (7%) reported someone had moved in temporarily
  • one in 50 (2%) reported someone had moved in long-term.

The most common reasons for a person still living in the household were:

  • financial reasons (either theirs or someone else’s) (30%*)
  • being unable to return to their usual residence (e.g. due to lock down of borders or travel bans) (16%)
  • to receive emotional support (15%)
  • to minimise COVID-19 risks (15%)
  • to assist someone with care (13%*).
  1. Respondent may have reported more than one reason
  2. Other includes to be with family, people returning from overseas and work or study related reasons

Job status

Key findings

  • The proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours was similar in November (62%) and December 2020 (63%).

Current job status

The survey collected changes to the job status of Australians when interviewed in mid-December. Responses are weighted and 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 the Labour Force Survey questionnaire, available from the Collection method chapter in the Labour force, Australia methodology publication). 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 greater than for Labour Force statistics (the Labour Force Survey sample is around 16 times larger). More information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 can be found here.

Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours was similar in mid-November (62%) and mid-December (63%). The proportion of people who had a job and were not working paid hours remained stable at 4% between mid-November and mid-December.

Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status
August 2020(a)September 2020(b)October 2020(b)November 2020(c)December 2020(b)
Has a job68%68%67%67%67%
Working paid hours60%61%62%62%63%
Not working paid hours8%7%6%4%4%
Does not have a paid job(d)32%32%33%33%33%
  1. Job status reported mid-August
  2. Current job status based on changes between each collection
  3. Current job status based on changes between each collection for previous panel and reported status mid-November for new panel
  4. 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 results of the most recent Labour Force Survey, with data in respect of the two weeks from 3 to 16 January, collected over the three weeks from 10 to 30 January, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, January 2021. The February 2021 results will be released 18 March 2021.

What’s next?

The ABS has followed up with the same people in January to undertake the sixth cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey.

The January topics include:

  • actions taken to manage health
  • health precautions
  • comfort with social gatherings
  • changes in spending
  • use of stimulus payments
  • household financial stress and actions
  • training and development of skills
  • changes to job status.

Information from the January survey will be published 22 February 2021.

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

Tables 1 - 23

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4940.0