This is not the latest release View the latest release

Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

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

Reference period
February 2021
Released
17/03/2021

Key statistics

  • In February, women (17%) were more likely than men (11%) to want to increase their time working from home.

  • Three in four (73%) people would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

  • About one in five (18%) people expect their household finances will improve over the next 12 months.

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 February 2021 survey was run between 12 and 21 February 2021 via online forms and telephone interviews. The survey included 3,011 continuing participants, a response rate of 89% of the sample.

The February 2021 survey collected information on:

  • work from home arrangements
  • study and training
  • participation in selected activities
  • attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines
  • symptom testing behaviours
  • household finances
  • stimulus payments
  • 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 12 to 21 February 2021, when this survey was conducted, Victoria identified a cluster of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases. All other states and territories only identified new cases from overseas which were managed through hotel quarantine.

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
  • a COVID-19 vaccination program from the end of February 2021.

All states and territories have eased restrictions, although a number of locations have used short periods of lockdown to manage local transmissions when required. At the time of the survey, Victoria went into a lockdown for five days to manage the spread of a local cluster of COVID-19 cases. There were no lockdowns or local transmissions in other states and territories while the survey was conducted.

Work from home

Key findings

  • People with a job were more likely to work from home one or more times a week in February 2021 (41%) than before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020 (24%).

  • The main reasons employed Australians worked from home in February 2021 were due to COVID-19 restrictions (12%) and the availability of flexible work arrangements (11%).

  • Employed women (17%) were more likely than employed men (11%) to want to increase the amount of work done from home.

Frequency of work from home

In February 2021, the survey asked about the frequency of working from home in the last four weeks before interview. In previous surveys, the survey also asked the same panel about the usual amount of time working from home before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

People 18 years and over with a job at the time of the survey were more likely to report working from home one or more times a week in four weeks in February 2021 (41%) compared with before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020 (24%).

Work from home arrangements

For Australians 18 years and over with a job in February 2021, 44% had an agreement with their employer to work flexible hours, with 15% having their agreement in writing.

The main reasons employed Australians worked from home included:

  • restrictions due to COVID-19 (12%)
  • the availability of flexible work arrangements (11%)
  • to catch up on work (6%).

Employed people in Victoria were more likely to work from home due to COVID-19 restrictions (22%), than employed people in New South Wales (10%) or the rest of Australia (5%). A five-day lockdown was in place in Victoria at the time of the survey, to manage a cluster of locally transmitted cases of COVID-19.

Download
  1. Includes people with a job at the time of interview in February 2021
  2. Excludes people with a job who did not usually work from home in February 2021
  3. Rest of Australia includes Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory

Changes to work from home arrangements

Over the next six months:

  • 47% of employed Australians expected the amount of work from home to remain the same
  • 11% expected a decrease in work from home
  • 8% expected an increase in work from home.

When asked about preferences for working from home:

  • 42% of employed Australians wanted the amount of work from home to stay the same
  • 14% wanted the amount of work from home to increase
  • 8% wanted the amount of work from home to decrease
  • 9% would prefer to not work from home
  • 26% had jobs that could not be done from home.

Employed women (17%) were more likely than employed men (11%) to want to increase the amount of work done from home.

Study and training

Key findings

  • One in four (26%) Australians aged 18 years and over undertook formal or informal study or training in 2020.
  • Around one in five (22%) people started or intended to start new courses, or changed their studies, due to the effects of COVID-19 on their existing employment or study.

Study in 2020

In February 2021, the survey asked Australians about their experiences with formal and informal study over the last year. Comparison of results with other surveys should be treated with caution due to methodological and contextual differences.

One in four (26%) Australians aged 18 years and over undertook formal or informal study or training in 2020.

Those undertaking study or training in 2020 were more likely to be:

  • people with a job (32%) than those without a job (14%)
  • people living in a family household with children (32%) than those in a family household without children (24%) or living alone (21%).

The types of study and training included:

  • formal study leading to a qualification or accreditation (46%)
  • formal study that did not lead to a qualification or accreditation, such as a one-off unit or training for a skill set (26%)
  • non-formal learning, such as industry or product specific non-award courses (20%)
  • informal learning, such as on the job training, or self-directed study such as learning a language or watching a series of lectures (29%).

For those studying or training in 2020:

  • 59% started their course in 2020
  • 27% added courses to their existing study or changed courses during the year.

The most common source of study and training in 2020 were:

  • through an education institution or training provider (63%)
  • self-taught, through books, videos and online (35%)
  • through work (30%).

Around three in five (61%) people studying completed their courses online, while 30% did a combination of online and face to face training.

Changes to study intentions in 2020

The survey also asked Australians aged 18 years and over about study and training intentions during 2020 that changed due to COVID-19. Around one in five (22%) people started or intended to start new courses, or changed their studies, due to the effects of COVID-19 on their existing employment or study.

The reasons for starting, intending to start or changing study in 2020 included:

  • to increase job skills, or compulsory job training (61%)
  • to increase job prospects or to help get a job (36%)
  • interest in a topic (31%)
  • to change career (22%)
  • more time available during COVID-19 restrictions (17%)
  • pathway to further study (15%)
  • more courses available or courses more affordable during this time (12%).

In 2020, one in eight (13%) people intended or wanted to study or add to their studies or training but didn't. Of the people who did not do their intended study, or deferred or dropped out of their existing study in 2020, 36% reported it was entirely because of COVID-19. A further 39% reported it was partly due to COVID-19.

Activities

Key findings

  • In February 2021, people were less likely to attend social gatherings of more than ten people one or more times a week, than before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020 (14% compared with 27%).

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 September, October and December 2020, and included a comparison to participation before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

At the time of the survey, most restrictions had eased or lifted in locations across Australia with the exception of Victoria where a five-day lockdown was held to manage the spread of a local cluster of COVID-19 cases.

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

  • going shopping (81% in February, 83% in December)
  • eating takeaway food (47% in February, 52% in December)
  • visiting a public park or recreation area (44% in February, 46% in December).

In February 2021, when comparing participation in activities in the four weeks before interview, with usual participation before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020, the biggest decrease in participation one or more times a week was for:

  • attending social gatherings of more than ten people (14% in February 2021 compared with 27% before March 2020)
  • exercising at a gym or playing sport (26% in February 2021 compared with 38% before March 2020)
  • using public transport (11% in February 2021 compared with 23% before March 2020).
Download
  1. Includes shopping in physical stores only
  2. Includes people 18 years and over with a job at the time of the survey
  3. Includes social gatherings of ten or more people
  4. Doing unpaid voluntary work for an organisation or group
  5. Going on holiday for two nights or more
  6. Usual participation in the activity before COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020

COVID-19 vaccines

Key findings

  • In February, 73% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and is recommended for them.

  • The factors that would most affect the decision to get vaccinated were whether the vaccine has been in use for a long time with no serious side-effects (27%) and whether it is recommended by the Department of Health (23%) or their GP or other health professional (21%).

  • The main reasons people may not get a vaccination were concerns relating to potential side-effects (54%) and effectiveness of the vaccine (20%).

Attitudes about COVID-19 vaccines

In February, the survey asked how strongly people agreed or disagreed with statements about a COVID-19 vaccine. Similar questions were asked in December 2020.

At the time of the survey, plans had been announced for the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, with phase one to begin after the February survey.

In February, around three in four (73%) Australians agreed or strongly agreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and is recommended for them, the same as results in December 2020 (73%).

Those who agreed or strongly agreed with getting a COVID-19 vaccine were more likely to be:

  • men (76%) than women (71%)
  • people aged 65 years and over (84%) than those aged 18 to 34 years (71%) and 35 to 64 years (70%)
  • people in Northern Territory, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory (79%) than those in Queensland (71%) and South Australia (67%)
  • people with a long-term health condition (76%) than those without a long-term health condition (71%).

One in ten (10%) people disagreed or strongly disagreed that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and is recommended for them, similar to results in December 2020 (12%).

In February, almost two in three (64%) people agreed or strongly agreed that they would try to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them, an increase from 58% in December 2020.

Those who agreed or strongly agreed with getting a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was available to them were more likely to be:

  • men (67%) than women (60%)
  • people aged 65 years and over (79%) than those aged 35 to 64 years (61%) and 18 to 34 years (59%)  
  • people in Northern Territory, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory (67%) than those in South Australia (57%)
  • people living alone (67%) and in family households without children (66%) than those in family households with children (57%)
  • people without a job (71%) than those with a job (60%)
  • people with a long-term health condition (68%) than those without a long-term health condition (61%).  
Download

Factors affecting decision to get COVID-19 vaccination

The factors most affecting the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccination were:

  • whether the vaccine has been in use for a long time with no serious side-effects (27%)
  • the recommendation of the Department of Health (23%)
  • a recommendation from their GP or other health professional (21%).

People who disagreed or strongly disagreed (10%), or neither agreed nor disagreed (17%), that they would get a COVID-19 vaccination were asked the main reason why they may not get one. The main reasons were:

  • concerns relating to potential side-effects (54%)
  • concerns about how effective the COVID-19 vaccine might be (20%).

The December 2020 survey included similar questions but asking for all factors affecting decisions and all reasons not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Due to the question differences, the responses are not comparable.

COVID-19 testing

Key findings

  • In February, over half (51%) of Australians reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms, similar to December (50%) and October 2020 (53%).

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

Over half (51%) of Australians reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if they had mild respiratory infection symptoms, similar to results in December (50%) and October 2020 (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 (64%) than those aged 35 to 64 years (52%) and 18 to 34 years (43%) 
  • people in Victoria (60%) and New South Wales (55%) than those in Queensland (41%) and Western Australia (41%)
  • people in family households without children (58%) and living alone (52%) than those in family households with children (42%)
  • people born overseas (58%) than those born in Australia (49%)
  • people without a job (56%) than those with a job (49%). 

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

  • if they thought the symptoms were unrelated to COVID-19 (59%)
  • if there were few or no cases of COVID-19 where they live (47%)
  • if they did not feel the symptoms were serious enough (45%)
  • if they had not been in contact with anyone who had COVID-19 symptoms (39%).
Download

Of those who may not get a COVID-19 test for mild symptoms, almost three quarters (71%) reported they would definitely get a COVID-19 test if the symptoms were severe, similar to December (73%).

Download
  1. Does not include persons 18 years and over who would definitely get a COVID-19 test for mild symptoms

Household finances

Key findings

  • In February, one in 14 (7%) Australians reported their household finances had improved in the last four weeks compared to one in six (16%) over the last 12 months.
  • A change in income was the main cause for a change in household finances over the last 12 months.
  • Just under one in five (18%) Australians reported they expect their household finances to improve over the next 12 months, while 12% expect their household finances to worsen over the same time period.

Change to household finances

In the last four weeks for Australians 18 years and over:

  • 79% reported their household finances remained the same
  • 14% reported their household finances have worsened
  • 7% reported their household finances have improved.
Download

In the last 12 months for Australians 18 years and over:

  • 63% reported their household finances remained the same
  • 21% reported their household finances have worsened
  • 16% reported their household finances have improved.

For those reporting their household finances had worsened in the last 12 months:

  • 62% reported it was caused by a decrease in income
  • 11% reported it was caused by an increase in other expenses (expenses other than rent, mortgage, other housing costs, energy costs and food and grocery costs)
  • 10% reported it was caused by an increase in food and grocery expenses.

For those people reporting their household finances had improved in the last 12 months:

  • 65% reported it was caused by an increase in income
  • 19% reported it was caused by a decrease in other expenses (expenses other than rent, mortgage, other housing costs, energy costs and food and grocery costs)
  • 4% reported it was caused by a decrease in rent or mortgage payments
  • 4% reported it was caused by a decrease in debt.

Of those with improved household finances in the last 12 months:

  • 76% reported they increased their savings
  • 35% reported they paid additional money on their mortgage or other large debt
  • 20% reported they paid off credit card and other credit
  • 17% reported they helped out other family members or friends.

Future household finances

Over the next 12 months for Australians 18 years and over:

  • 70% expect their household finances to remain the same
  • 18% expect their household finances to improve
  • 12% expect their household finances to worsen.

Over the next 12 months, almost half (49%) of Australians reported they expect their household to save money, while 23% expect their household will not save any money and 27% did not know.

For Australians expecting to save money over the next 12 months:

  • 38% had nothing planned with the expected saved money
  • 24% plan to travel
  • 19% plan to renovate their home
  • 17% plan to buy or build a new home.

Stimulus payments

Key findings

  • In February 2021, paying household bills was reported to be the most common use of the Coronavirus Supplement (84%) and the JobKeeper Payment (69%*).

Coronavirus Supplement

From 1 January 2021, the Commonwealth Government introduced changes to the Coronavirus Supplement. Eligible income support recipients now receive a fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement of $150 along with their usual payments, a decrease from the $250 payment received from 25 September to 31 December 2020. Further details on eligible recipients is provided in the survey Methodology.

In February 2021, approximately one in 14 (7%) Australians reported they were currently receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.

Of Australians receiving the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • 37%* reported mainly using the payment on household bills
  • 25% reported mainly using the payment on mortgage and rent payments.

The survey also asked Coronavirus Supplement recipients to select all of the uses of the payment in the last four weeks. Paying household bills (84%) was the most commonly reported use of the Coronavirus Supplement, followed by purchasing household supplies, including groceries (59%*).

Of Australians receiving the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • 42%* reported their household finances had worsened in the last four weeks, while only 4% reported they had improved and 54% reported their household finances had remained the same
  • 22% reported they expect to save money over the next 12 months, while 35%* don’t expect to save money and 44%* are unsure.

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 4 January 2021, changes to the JobKeeper Payment came into effect with affected employers and sole traders now able to claim either $1,000 or $650 per fortnight per eligible employee based on eligibility requirements. Further details on eligible recipients is provided in the survey Methodology.

In February 2021, approximately one in 25 (4%) Australians reported currently receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer. 

In February, of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • 54%* reported receiving the $1,000 higher rate payment
  • 33%* reported receiving the $650 lower rate payment
  • 14%* did not know what rate they were receiving.

For those receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • 73%* reported receiving less income than their usual pay
  • 21%* were receiving about the same income
  • 6% reported they were receiving more income.

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment whose usual pay is more than what they are receiving from the JobKeeper Payment, 49%* 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
  • 28% 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 (69%*) was the most commonly reported use of the JobKeeper Payment, followed by mortgage or rent payments (48%*).

Of Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • 15% reported their household finances had worsened in the last four weeks, while 11% reported they had improved and 74%* reported their household finances had remained the same
  • 41%* reported they expect to save money over the next 12 months, while 26%* don’t expect to save money and 33%* are unsure.

Job status

Key findings

  • The proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours was similar in February (64%) and January (63%).

Current job status

The survey collected changes to the job status of Australians when interviewed in mid-February. 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 17 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 February (64%) and January (63%). The proportion of people who had a job and were not working paid hours remained stable at 4% over the past four months.

Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status
Aug-20(a)Sep-20(b)Oct-20(b)Nov-20(c)Dec-20(b)Jan-21(b)Feb-21(b)
Has a job68%68%67%67%67%67%68%
Working paid hours60%61%62%62%63%63%64%
Not working paid hours8%7%6%4%4%4%4%
Does not have a paid job(d)32%32%33%33%33%33%32%
  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 for new panel members
  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 will follow up in March to undertake the eighth cycle of the monthly Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics include:

  • emotional and mental wellbeing
  • health precautions
  • sources of health information
  • unpaid voluntary work
  • use of public transport
  • stimulus payments
  • job status.

Information from the March survey will be released in mid-April 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 - 16

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4940.0