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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) personal levels of concern in the community, actions taken as a result of COVID-19, and use of stimulus payments

Reference period
Detailed Release, May 2020
Released
10/08/2020

Key statistics

  • 67% of people in New South Wales and Victoria felt concerned about their health due to COVID-19.
  • People born overseas (31%) felt more concerned about their health, compared to people born in Australia (13%).
  • 32% of Australians had received a personal stimulus payment from the Government.

About this issue

The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, Detailed Release provides insight into personal experiences during the spread of COVID-19 in Australia, and was collected between 10 and 23 May 2020.

The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, Detailed Release presents information on:

  • Receipt and use of Government stimulus payments
  • Actions taken in the last four weeks in response to COVID-19
  • Level of concern for personal health due to COVID-19
  • Flu vaccinations
     

The scope of this survey was people aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia.

About this collection

The findings below were collected as part of the Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) from approximately 2,600 people via telephone interview. The MPHS, undertaken each financial year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), is a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and is designed to collect statistics for a number of small, self-contained topics. For further information about the collection of this data, please refer to the Methodology.

The ABS previously published fortnightly releases of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 survey, including 12-15th and 26-29th May cycles. The fortnightly publications were based on a separate smaller sample of around 1,000 people but had similar content. The results of both surveys are broadly coherent, however due to a larger sample size this release provides more detailed information than was possible from the fortnightly survey.

This survey was designed to provide data on how Australians were responding to the spread of COVID-19. At the time of the May survey, initiatives in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy included:

  • international travel restrictions
  • an economic stimulus package (announced 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
  • announcing a Federal Government three-stage plan on 8 May to begin easing restrictions
  • slight easing of restrictions in some states and territories (1-12 May)
     

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

Receipt and use of Government stimulus payments

Key findings

  • Almost half of Tasmanian adults (47%) had received a stimulus payment from the Government by May, compared to 32% of adults nationally.
  • Women were more likely to have received a stimulus payment than men (36% compared to 27%).
  • One in four employed people (27%) who received a stimulus payment put it towards their mortgage or rent, compared to 8% of those not working or not in the labour force in May.
  • Two in five people without private health insurance (40%) received a stimulus payment, compared to only one in four (24%) people who had both hospital and extras cover.
  • Australians with a qualification were less likely to have received a stimulus payment (27%) than those without (41%).
     

Stimulus payments

The survey asked respondents about whether they had received a stimulus payment provided by the Government in response to COVID-19, and how they used that payment. The survey collected information only related to personal payments received, and did not include any business-related stimulus payments.

  • As of May, one in three Australians (32%) had received a personal stimulus payment from the Australian Government.
  • Across the states and territories, nearly half of adults in Tasmania (47%) and two in five South Australians (39%) and Queenslanders (37%) received a stimulus payment in May.
     
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People who did not have private health insurance were more likely to have received a stimulus payment than Australians who had both hospital and extras cover (40% compared to 24%).

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  • Australians without a qualification were more likely to have received a stimulus payment (41%) than those with a qualification (27%).
  • Women were also more likely to have received a payment by May than men (36% compared to 27%).
     

All uses of stimulus payments

Many people in the survey reported that they had used the stimulus payments for multiple purposes. The most commonly reported uses of personal stimulus payments were paying household bills (42%), adding to savings (40%) and spending on purchasing food and non-alcoholic beverages (31%).

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People who were born overseas often have different experiences and characteristics than those born in Australia. The survey found that people born overseas were twice as likely to pay their mortgage or rent with stimulus payments than people born in Australia (20% compared to 11%). Additionally, nearly twice as many people born overseas reported using their stimulus payments to purchase medical supplies than those born in Australia (14% compared to 8%).

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Paying household bills was the most commonly reported use of stimulus payments by both employed people and people not working (48% and 40%). Australians who were employed in May were three times as likely to use stimulus payments for paying a mortgage or rent than people who were not working (27% compared to 8%). Those who were employed were also more likely to purchase recreational or leisure activities compared to those not working (13% compared to 4%).

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Men were more likely to purchase food or non-alcoholic beverages and other household supplies than women (37% compared to 27%).

Main use of stimulus payments

The survey also asked respondents what their main use of the stimulus payment was. The main uses that people reported for stimulus payments were to add to their savings (29%) and to pay household bills (28%).

Older people were more likely to report adding stimulus payments to their savings than those under 64 years of age (37% compared to 22%). They were also more likely to say that they had primarily used the stimulus payment to purchase household furnishings and medical supplies.

Younger people, on the other hand, were more likely than older people to have used the money to pay household bills (31% compared to 23%), to have bought food and non-alcoholic drinks (15% compared to 8%) or to have paid their mortgage or rent (10% compared to 1%).

Employed and unemployed people most commonly reported that they mainly spent the money they received to pay household bills, rent and mortgage or other loan payments (44% and 63%). Those not in the labour force were more evenly split in how they used their stimulus payments than those who were either employed or unemployed. People not in the labour force mainly used their stimulus payments to:

  • make general purchases including food and household furnishings (36%);
  • pay household bills, rent and mortgage or other loan payments (33%); and
  • add to their savings (31%).
     
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Actions taken by Australians to combat the spread of COVID-19

Key findings

  • People who were born overseas were twice as likely to have worn a facemask at least once in the four weeks prior to the survey (42%) than people who were born in Australia (20%).
  • The majority of Australians practiced social distancing measures in the four weeks prior to the survey, including keeping their distance from others (95%), cancelling personal gatherings (77%) and avoiding public spaces (75%).
  • Half of people who were born in Australia (49%) avoided public transport, compared to three in five (62%) people born overseas.
  • Two in five employed Australians (39%) worked from home in the four weeks prior to the survey. New South Wales (45%) and Victoria (43%) were among the states with the highest proportions of employed people working from home, with employed South Australians being the least likely to have worked from home (29%).
  • Over half of Australians (55%) changed their travel plans in May in response to COVID-19.
     

Actions taken

The survey asked respondents if they had taken any of the following actions because of the spread of COVID-19 in the previous four weeks:

  • Wearing a facemask
  • Seeking advice from a medical professional
  • Avoiding public transport
  • Avoiding public spaces (and public events)
  • Keeping distance from people
  • Cancelling personal gatherings (e.g. with friends or family)
  • Changing or cancelling travel plans
  • Working from home
  • Stopped working at all (e.g. cancelled shifts)
  • Keeping children home from school or childcare
  • Purchasing additional household supplies
  • Purchasing additional medical supplies
  • Self-isolated (stayed at home)
  • Other actions
     

Respondents who reported changed or cancelled travel plans were also asked if the travel was domestic, international, or both.

Social distancing

Three quarters of Australians (75%) were avoiding public spaces (and public events) in the four weeks prior to the survey. Across the states and territories, this ranged from 55% in South Australia to 80% in Victoria.

Social distancing measures were practiced by almost all Australians in response to COVID-19, including keeping distance from people (95%), and cancelling personal gatherings (77%).

Women were more likely than men to have avoided public transport (57% compared to 49%) and public spaces (79% compared to 71%). Similarly, women were more likely than men to have self-isolated in the four weeks prior to the survey (64% compared to 59%).

Half of people who were born in Australia (49%) avoided public transport, compared to three in five (62%) people born overseas.

Three out of four Tasmanians (75%) stayed at home under self-isolation at least once in the four weeks prior to the May survey compared to three out of five people nationally (62%).

One in five Australians (22%) reported keeping their children home from school or childcare in the four weeks prior to the survey. This rate ranged from 18% in Tasmania and South Australia to 24% in Victoria. People with a qualification were also more likely to have kept their children home from school or childcare (26%) than those without a qualification (16%).

At the time of the survey, one in ten Australians (11%) had stopped working in the prior four weeks. Australians who were currently studying were more likely to have taken this action than those who were not (20% compared to 10%).

Working from home

Two in five employed Australians (39%) worked from home in the four weeks prior to the survey. This is higher than pre-COVID-19 rates reported from the ABS’ Characteristics of Employment 2019 survey, where 32% of employed people regularly worked from home.

New South Wales (45%) and Victoria (43%) were among the states with the highest proportions of people working from home, with employed South Australians being the least likely to have worked from home (29%).

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Employed people with a qualification were almost twice as likely (45%) to have worked from home during the survey period than employed people without a qualification (24%).

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Wearing a facemask

The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, Detailed Release provides information on whether Australians wore a facemask at least once in the four weeks prior to the survey.

Over a quarter of Australians (28%) had worn a facemask at least once in the four weeks prior to the survey, with variation between the states and territories ranging from just over one-third of people from New South Wales (34%) to 16% of people from Tasmania.

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People who were born overseas were twice as likely to have worn a facemask than people who were born in Australia (42% compared to 20%).

Three in eight Australians (37%) who were studying reported wearing a facemask at least once during this time. In comparison, one in four Australians (26%) who were not studying reported the same behaviour.

Hand washing and face touching

Around four in five Australians (84%) washed their hands or used sanitiser more than usual in the four weeks prior to the survey. Six in seven people (85%) who were employed in May reported washing their hands more than usual in the four weeks before the survey, while four in five Australians (82%) who were either unemployed or not in the labour force at this time increased this activity.

Nearly half of people in New South Wales (48%) reported touching their face less in the four weeks before the survey, which was similar to people in Victoria (46%). Less than a third of South Australians (31%) reported that they had touched their face less.

Around half of people who were employed (46%) reported that they had touched their face less, whilst two in five (39%) of those who were unemployed or not in the labour force reported touching their face less.

People born overseas were also more likely to purchase additional medical supplies than those born in Australia (24% compared to 15%).

Travel plans

Over half of Australians (55%) changed their travel plans in May in response to COVID-19.

Respondents were asked if they changed or cancelled domestic travel plans only, international travel plans only or both domestic and international travel plans.

Of those who had changed or cancelled travel plans, over half (54%) did so for domestic travel only. For South Australians and Tasmanians, over two thirds (72% and 67%*) of travel changes were for domestic travel only.

Nearly a quarter of Australians (24%) who changed or cancelled their travel plans did so for international travel only. Changes or cancellations of international travel plans only were highest for Western Australians (32%) and Victorians (27%). Over one in five (22%) of Australians changed or cancelled both international and domestic travel plans only. This impacted only 14% of South Australian people with travel plans.

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Of people who changed or cancelled travel plans, those born overseas were more likely to have cancelled international travel plans only (37%) than people born in Australia (17%).

Levels of concern

Key findings

  • Two in three people in New South Wales and Victoria (67%) reported feeling concerned or very concerned about their personal health due to the spread of COVID-19. In comparison, just over half of Queenslanders (52%) and South Australians (53%) reported the same levels of concern.
  • 31% of people born overseas felt very concerned about their health due to COVID-19, compared to 13% of people born in Australia.
  • Australians who were unemployed or not in the labour force in May were more likely to report feelings of concern for their health than those who were employed at this time (68% compared to 58%).
  • People who considered themselves to be in fair or poor health were more likely to report feelings of concern due to the spread of COVID-19 (71%), compared to those self-reporting excellent or very good levels of health (59%).
     

Concern across the country

At the time of the survey the State and Territory Governments of Australia were continuing to review the level of COVID-19 restrictions in place to protect their communities.

The survey asked respondents if they were: not concerned, neither concerned nor unconcerned, concerned, or very concerned about their personal health due to the spread of COVID-19.

Three in five Australians (62%) reported feelings of concern about their personal health. New South Wales and Victoria held the highest proportion of concerned people (67%), closely followed by Tasmania (61%).

In comparison, 52% of people living in Queensland expressed feelings of concern about their personal health due to COVID-19. Similar levels were reported in Western Australia (54%) and South Australia (53%).

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People born overseas reported greater levels of concern for personal health due to the spread of COVID-19 than those who were born in Australia (70% compared to 58%).

Australians who assessed their own health as fair or poor were more likely to report feelings of concern than people who felt that their health was excellent or very good (71% compared to 59%), as were people with a long-term health condition (65% compared to 58% of people without a condition).

Females were more likely than males to be concerned about their personal health due to COVID-19 (66% compared to 57%), as were people aged 65 and over (71% compared to 59% of people aged 18 to 64).

Getting a flu vaccination

Key findings

  • Three out of five South Australians (60%) had received a flu vaccination at the time of the survey, which was the highest proportion of all states and territories. In comparison, less than half of people in Western Australia (45%) had received the flu shot.
  • People who were employed in May were twice as likely (21%) to have had a flu vaccination due to the spread of COVID-19 than those who were unemployed or not in the labour force at this time (10%).
  • Over half of Australians with a long-term health condition (57%) received a flu vaccination by May this year, compared to two in five of people (41%) without.
  • Australians with a long-term health condition were also more likely to report having regular flu vaccinations (85%) than those without (70%).
     

Flu vaccination

The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, Detailed Release provides information on flu vaccination behaviours. Data collected in May included whether Australians had received a flu vaccination, intentions to have a vaccination this year and the main reasons for their vaccination preferences.

Across the states and territories, flu vaccination rates ranged from 45% in Western Australia to 60% in South Australia. Of those who had received a vaccination by May this year, four in five Australians (79%) reported the reason for doing so was because they usually received one. In comparison, one in six (17%) vaccination recipients reported that the only reason for having this was due to COVID-19.

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Australians employed during May were twice as likely (21%) to have had a flu vaccination due to the spread of COVID-19 than those who were unemployed or not in the labour force at this time (10%).

Over half of people with private health cover (55%) had received their flu vaccination by May compared to just two in five (40%) without any type of private health cover.

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Household Impacts visual summary

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Australian households during COVID-19 May 2020

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Household impacts of COVID-19 include wellbeing, behavioural and social measures. These results are from May 2020.

  • Australians changed work and child care arrangements
     
    • Nationwide, 27% worked from home, 11% stopped working, and 22% kept children home.
    • In New South Wales, 28% worked from home, 14% stopped working, and 21% kept children home.
    • In Victoria, 30% worked from home, 11% stopped working, and 24% kept children home.
    • In Queensland, 22% worked from home, 12% stopped working, and 20% kept children home.
    • In South Australia, 18% worked from home, 12% stopped working, and 18% kept children home.
    • In Western Australia, 24% worked from home, 8% stopped working, and 23% kept children home.
    • In Tasmania, 26% worked from home, 10% stopped working, and 18% kept children home.
    • In Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, 44% worked from home, 9% stopped working, and 19% kept children home.
       
  • 1 in 3 Australians received a personal stimulus payment from the Government. Almost half of all Tasmanians (47%) had received a stimulus payment by May.
  • Australians with a qualification beyond school were less likely to have received a stimulus payment (27% compared to 41%).
  • 2 in 3 people in New South Wales and Victoria reported feeling concerned or very concerned about their personal health due to the spread of COVID-19. For Queensland and South Australia, 1 in 2 reported the same levels of concern.
  • More people born overseas felt very concerned about their health due to COVID-19 than those born in Australia (31% compared to 13%). People who were not employed more likely to have felt concerned for their health (68% compared to 58%).
  • More than 1 in 4 Australians had worn a face mask at least once in the last four weeks. People born overseas twice as likely to have worn a face mask than those born in Australia.
     

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

Data downloads

Tables 1 to 16

Data item list