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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
November 2020
Released
14/12/2020

Key statistics

  • A third (33%) of people prefer to shop online more than before the pandemic.
  • Two in five (40%) were somewhat uncomfortable shopping at a large complex or mall due to COVID-19.
  • Fewer people in November reported feelings that had an adverse impact on emotional and mental wellbeing than in August.

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 November 2020 survey was run between 13 and 23 November 2020 via online forms and telephone interviews. The survey included around 1,370 continuing participants and responses from around 2,030 new participants, bringing the total panel to 3,400 people.

The November 2020 survey collected information on:

  • comfort with shopping in person
  • feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing
  • use of Telehealth services
  • health precautions
  • care and assistance provided to vulnerable people inside and outside the household
  • use of stimulus payments
  • job status and absences from work
  • perceptions of the future after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 13 to 23 November 2020, when this survey was conducted, most newly acquired cases in Australia were from overseas and managed through hotel quarantine. South Australia was the only state to identify a cluster through local transmission, which led to a short-term lockdown and stronger restrictions to manage the spread. Over the time that interviews were conducted, the cluster in South Australia had reached around 18 cases.

New South Wales reported an average of 6 new cases of COVID-19 daily, all from overseas. Other states and territories continued to have low daily cases and Victoria reported no new 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)
  • 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)
  • stimulus payments including:
    • a Coronavirus Supplement paid fortnightly from 27 April to eligible income support recipients along with their usual payments (reduced in late September and paid until the end of December)
    • a JobKeeper Payment passed in legislation on 15 April and paid to employers to keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the COVID-19 restrictions (reduced to include two tiers in September and extended until March 2021)
  • various restrictions, including shutting down non-essential services, limits on gatherings and social distancing rules from March
  • a guided easing of these restrictions in many states and territories using the National Cabinet agreed three step framework introduced in early May.

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 Adelaide. South Australia implemented a strict short-term lockdown that lasted for three days, with additional restrictions still in place once the lockdown ended.

The second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria from mid-June 2020 led to stronger restrictions within the state from August. After a number of days with zero new cases most restrictions were lifted, with the last step in the roadmap for reopening Victoria implemented from 22 November.  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.

Shopping online and in-person

Key findings

  • One in three (33%) Australians reported they prefer to do more shopping online than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Two in five (40%) Australians reported they were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with shopping at a large complex or mall because of COVID-19.

Preference for more shopping online

The survey asked if people prefer to do more shopping online now than before the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

One in three (33%) Australians reported they prefer to do more shopping online than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More people in Victoria (43%) and New South Wales (35%) preferred to shop more online than before the pandemic, when compared with people in the rest of Australia (26%).

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  1. Rest of Australia includes Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

A preference to shop online more than before the COVID-19 pandemic was reported by:

  • more women (42%) than men (25%)
  • more people aged 18 to 64 years (37%) than people aged 65 years and over (16%)
  • more people in family households with children (42%) than people living alone (23%)
  • more people with no disability (35%) than people with disability (29%).

Frequency of shopping online and in-person

The survey asked about usual online and in-person shopping habits before the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020, as well as shopping intentions over the next three months until the end of January 2021. The questions referred to personal shopping or shopping for others for food, clothes, household supplies, gifts and other items.

Most (93%) Australians intended to shop in-person once a month or more frequently from November 2020 to January 2021, similar to 96% before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.

Half (50%) of Australians intended to shop online once a month or more frequently, compared with two in five (39%) who would usually shop online as frequently at this time of the year.

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  1. Includes personal shopping and/or shopping for others for food, clothes, household supplies, gifts and other items
  2. ‘In-person’ means physically visiting and making a purchase in or at a physical location

Comfort with in-person shopping

The survey asked people if COVID-19 had an impact on how comfortable they are shopping in-person at selected places.

In November 2020, Australians were comfortable or very comfortable shopping at:

  • a local or corner store (87%)
  • a petrol or service station (84%)
  • a medium sized shopping complex (78%)
  • a market with stalls (61%).
  • a large complex or mall (59%).

Two in five (40%) Australians reported they were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with shopping at a large complex or mall. Over one in three (36%) were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable shopping at a market with stalls.

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  1. Includes personal shopping and/or shopping for others for food, clothes, household supplies, gifts and other items
  2. ‘In-person’ means physically visiting and making a purchase in or at a physical location

Generally, people with disability as reported in this survey were less comfortable shopping in-person at selected places compared with people with no disability. Of people with disability:

  • around one in five (19%) reported feeling very uncomfortable shopping in-person at a large complex or mall (compared with 11% of people with no disability)
  • one in 13 (8%) reported feeling very uncomfortable shopping in-person at their local or corner store (compared with 5% of people with no disability).

Improving comfort with shopping in-person

The survey then asked what selected events or changes would need to happen to improve the current comfort level with shopping in-person.

Over one in three (35%) Australians reported their comfort level with shopping in-person would improve if other people understood and visibly followed COVID-safe practices.

Other events or changes that would improve comfort levels include:

  • development of a vaccine (20%)
  • low daily infection rates (17%)
  • retailers following COVID-safe practices (10%)
  • easing or removal of COVID-19 restrictions (5%).

People aged 65 years and over were more likely than people aged 18 to 64 years (27% compared to 18%) to report the development of a vaccine would improve their comfort level.

While people aged 18 to 64 years were more likely than people aged 65 years and over (19% compared to 10%) to report low daily infection rates would improve their comfort level.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

Key findings

  • Fewer Australians reported feelings that had an adverse impact on emotional and mental wellbeing in November 2020 than in August.
  • Around one in five (21%) Australians experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in November 2020.  
  • Women were more likely than men to have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (25% compared with 16%).

Emotional and mental wellbeing in the previous four weeks

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

  • tired out for no good reason
  • nervous
  • so nervous that nothing could calm you down
  • hopeless
  • restless or fidgety
  • so restless you could not sit still
  • depressed
  • everything was an effort
  • so sad that nothing could cheer you up
  • worthless.

A subset of six of these questions was asked in August 2020. Comparing the two periods, fewer Australians in November 2020 reported feeling:

  • nervous at least some of the time (30% compared with 46% during August)
  • everything was an effort at least some of the time (26% compared with 41% during August)
  • restless or fidgety at least some of the time (24% compared with 41% during August)
  • hopeless at least some of the time (15% compared with 24% during August)
  • so sad that nothing could cheer them up at least some of the time (12% compared with 17% during August)
  • worthless at least some of the time (11% compared with 16% during August).
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Psychological distress

For the first time in this survey series the complete question set of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) was included.  The K10 provides a measure of the mental health and wellbeing of a population and allows for reporting of levels of psychological distress.

Around one in five (21%) people experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in November 2020.

In November 2020:

  • women were more likely than men to have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (25% compared with 16%)
  • more (32%) younger Australians (aged 18 to 34 years) experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress than those aged 35 to 64 years (17%) or aged 65 years and over (9%)
  • one in three (34%) people with disability as reported in this survey experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (compared with 16% reported by people with no disability)
  • around one in three (31%) people who provided care in the last four weeks experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (compared with 18% of people who did not provide care).

Seeing a doctor or other health professional

People who experienced one or more of these feelings at least a little of the time were asked if they had discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional. In November 2020, 17% of people discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional, the same as in August (17%).

Telehealth service use

Key findings

  • Almost one in six (18%) Australians used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks.
  • People with a long-term health condition (27%) were more likely to use the service than people without a long-term health condition (11%).
  • People with disability (30%) were more likely to use the service than people with no disability (14%).
  • Around half (49%) of Australians were likely to use a Telehealth service beyond the COVID-19 restriction period.

Use of a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks

Telehealth services include any appointments with a health professional over the phone, by video conferencing, or through other communication technologies. In November 2020 the survey asked about the use of a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks. Australians were also asked in May and June 2020 about their use of a Telehealth service.

In November, almost one in six (18%) Australians used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks. This was similar to the use of a Telehealth service in June (20%) and May (17%).

Of the people who used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks:

  • women (23%) were more likely to use the service than men (12%)
  • people in Victoria (32%) were more likely to use the service than those in New South Wales (14%) and the rest of Australia (12%)
  • people with a long-term health condition (27%) were more likely to use the service than people without a long-term health condition (11%)
  • people with disability as reported in this survey (30%) were more likely to use the service than people with no disability (14%).

The survey asked people who used Telehealth services in the last four weeks if they felt listened to, and if the health professional spent enough time with them.

  • 94% reported the health professional always or often listened carefully to them
  • 91% reported the health professional always or often spent enough time with them.

Reasons for using a Telehealth service

Of the people who used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks (18%) the most common reasons were:

  • as a replacement for a face-to-face or physical appointment with a health professional (70%)
  • for a prescription (34%)
  • for a mental health service (18%).

Reasons for not using a Telehealth service

Of the people who did not use a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks (82%) the most common reasons were:

  • health services were not needed (89%)
  • they prefer to speak in person with health professionals (11%)
  • the service was not recommended or suitable for their condition (3%).

Future use of Telehealth services

The survey asked whether people were likely to use Telehealth services in the future for any appointments that could be conducted over the phone or via video conferencing.

Almost half (49%) reported they were likely to use Telehealth services in the future.

In November, there was an increase in people aged 65 years and over (46%) who reported they were likely to use Telehealth services in the future compared with June (32%).

Of those who reported in November they were likely to, or did not know if they would, use Telehealth services in the future, the most common reasons to use the service were:

  • convenience – can access from anywhere (78%)
  • saves time (52%)
  • don’t have to travel (50%)
  • want to avoid illness from others (37%)
  • bulk-billed service (35%).

Of those who reported they were unlikely to, or did not know if they would, use Telehealth services in the future, the most common reasons were:

  • prefer to speak in person with health professionals (79%)
  • don’t think the service is as good (7%)
  • not recommended for their condition/s or treatment (7%).

Precautions

Key findings

  • The most common precautions being taken in November continued to be people washing their hands or using hand sanitiser regularly (93%) and keeping a physical distance from people (80%).

Precautions taken in the last week

In November, almost all (96%) Australians took one or more precautions in the previous week because of the spread of COVID-19. These included:

  • washing hands or using hand sanitiser regularly (93%)
  • keeping a physical distance from people (80%)
  • disinfecting surfaces before using them (57%)
  • wearing a facemask (52%)
  • staying at home (45%)
  • getting home deliveries, including groceries and household products (20%).
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  1. Precaution was not collected in May, June and August
  2. Precaution was not collected in May

When the November survey was conducted, Victorian restrictions related to leaving home had been eased, but there were still facemask wearing requirements and some business restrictions or closures. 

In November, the proportion of people who wore a facemask (52%) was similar to October (54%). In Victoria, almost all (99%) people reported wearing a facemask in the last week compared with 61% in New South Wales and 15% in the rest of Australia.

In Victoria, 90% of people reported keeping a physical distance from others in the last week compared with 83% in New South Wales and 72% in the rest of Australia.

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  1. Precautions in the week before interview in mid-November
  2. Rest of Australia includes Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

Slightly fewer people took one or more precautions in the last week (96%) compared with October (98%). Comparing November with October, fewer people reported taking the following precautions:

  • washing hands or using hand sanitiser regularly (93% compared with 96%)
  • keeping a physical distance from people (80% compared with 87%)
  • disinfecting surfaces before using them (57% compared with 68%)
  • seeking advice from a medical professional, including from pop-up and fever clinics (5% compared with 8%).

In November:

  • women (62%) were more likely than men (51%) to disinfect surfaces before using them
  • people aged 65 years and over (88%) were more likely than people aged 18 to 64 years (79%) to keep a physical distance from others
  • people in family households with children (25%) were more likely than people in family households without children (18%) to get home deliveries of groceries and household products
  • people born overseas (58%) were more likely than those born in Australia (50%) to wear a facemask
  • people with disability as reported in this survey (53%) were more likely than people with no disability (42%) to stay at home due to COVID-19.

Care to vulnerable people

Key findings

  • In November 2020, around one in six (16%) Australians aged 18 years and over reported providing unpaid care for a vulnerable person.
  • Since 1 March 2020, one in four (25%) people who provided unpaid care to a vulnerable person had difficulty providing care or assistance because of COVID-19.

Unpaid care and assistance to vulnerable people

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over if, in the previous four weeks, they had provided unpaid care or assistance to a vulnerable person. In the survey a vulnerable person is defined as a person aged 65 years or over, or a person aged under 65 years with disability, or a long-term health condition. Respondents were also asked about their caring responsibilities prior to 1 March 2020 to understand the impacts that COVID-19 may have had on their caring roles.

In November, around one in six (16%) Australians aged 18 years and over reported providing care for a vulnerable person. Women (19%) were more likely to provide care than men (12%).

Among those who provided care in the previous four weeks:

  • almost nine in ten (88%) also provided care prior to 1 March
  • one in 20 (5%) provided care which, prior to 1 March, was delivered by a formal care provider
  • around three in five (57%) cared for someone living in the same household
  • three in five (59%) cared for an older person (aged 65 years and over)
  • over one in four cared for a person aged less than 65 years with disability (28%) or a person aged less than 65 years with a long-term health condition (27%).

Since 1 March 2020, among those who provide care or assistance:

  • one in four people (25%) had difficulty providing care because of COVID-19
  • over one in five (22%) reduced their recreational activities
  • the same amount (22%) changed their work arrangements.

Hours of care provided

Among those who provided unpaid care in the previous four weeks, around two in five (43%) were providing less than ten hours of care per week.

Hours of care were similar for those who provided care prior to 1 March and those who provided care in the previous four weeks.

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  1. Excludes those who did not know how many hours of care was provided
  2. Where a person cared for more than one person, hours of care relates to the person for whom they provided the most care

Stimulus payments

Key findings

  • In November 2020, paying household bills was reported to be the most common use of the Coronavirus Supplement (67%) and the JobKeeper Payment (78%).

Coronavirus Supplement

From 25 September 2020, the Commonwealth Government introduced changes to the Coronavirus Supplement. Eligible income support recipients now receive a fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement of $250 along with their usual payments, a decrease from the original $550 payment. Further details on eligible recipients is provided in the survey Methodology.

In November, approximately one in 11 (9%) Australians reported they were currently receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.

People aged 18 to 64 years were more likely to report receiving the Coronavirus Supplement than those aged 65 years and over (10% compared with 2%).

People with disability as reported in this survey were more likely to report receiving the Coronavirus Supplement than those with no disability (12% compared with 7%).

When broken down by state, the Coronavirus Supplement was received by:

  • 12% of people living in Queensland
  • 10% of people living in Victoria and South Australia
  • 8% of people living in Western Australia
  • 6% of people living in New South Wales, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Of Australians receiving the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • 31%* reported mainly using the payment on household bills
  • 26% reported mainly using the payment on household supplies, including groceries.

The survey also asked Coronavirus Supplement recipients to select all of the uses of the payment. Paying household bills (67%) was the most commonly reported use of the Coronavirus Supplement, followed by purchasing household supplies, including groceries (63%*).

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  1. Proportion of people receiving the Coronavirus Supplement who reported using the payment for each item in the last four weeks

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, changes to the JobKeeper Payment came into effect with affected employers and sole traders now able to claim either $1,200 or $750 per fortnight per eligible employee based on eligibility requirements. Further details on eligible recipients is provided in the survey Methodology.

In November, approximately one in 17 (6%) Australians reported currently receiving the JobKeeper Payment from their employer. This is a decrease from September when 14% of Australians reported receiving the JobKeeper payment.

People aged 18 to 64 years were more likely to report receiving the JobKeeper Payment than those aged 65 years and over (7% compared with 2%).

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • almost three in four (72%) reported receiving less income than their usual pay
  • one in five (20%) were receiving about the same income
  • one in 13 (8%) reported that they were receiving more income.

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

  • 8% of people living in Victoria (63%* said they were receiving less than usual their pay)
  • 6% of people living in New South Wales (95%* said they were receiving less than their usual pay)
  • 5% of people living in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia
  • 3% of people living in Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Of the Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment whose usual pay is more than what they are receiving from the JobKeeper Payment, approximately two in five (41%*) were being paid the difference between the JobKeeper payment and their usual pay by their employer.

Of Australians receiving the JobKeeper Payment:

  • 31% reported mainly using the payment on household bills
  • 31% reported mainly using the payment on mortgage or rent payments.

The survey also asked JobKeeper Payment recipients to select all of the uses of the payment. Paying household bills (78%) was the most commonly reported use of the JobKeeper Payment, followed by purchasing household supplies, including groceries (63%) and mortgage or rent payments (54%*).

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  1. Proportion of people receiving the JobKeeper Payment who reported using the supplement for each item in the last four weeks

Job status

Key findings

  • Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained stable between October (62%) and November (62%).

Current job status

The November survey included the previous panel and a new panel bringing total participants to around 3,400 people. The original survey collected information on the mid-August job status of all respondents and changes in status when interviewed each month. The new panel were asked their current job status in mid-November, and will be asked any changes in job status in the coming months. 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 their current job status or 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 15 times larger than the combined panels). 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 remained stable between mid-October (62%) and mid-November (62%). The proportion of people who had a job and were not working paid hours was 6% in mid-October and 4% in mid-November.

Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status
August 2020(a)September 2020(b)October 2020(b)November 2020(c)
Has a job68.2%68.3%67.1%66.5%
Working paid hours60.3%61.0%61.5%62.4%
Not working paid hours7.9%7.3%5.7%4.1%
Does not have a paid job(c)31.8%31.7%32.9%33.1%
  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 27 September to 10 October, collected over the three weeks from 4 to 24 October, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, October 2020. The November 2020 results will be released 17 December 2020.

Absences from work

Key findings

  • In November, over one in five (22%) employees had at least one all-day absence from work in the last two weeks.
  • Of the employees who had an all-day absence in the last two weeks, around one in three (35%) had taken sick leave.
  • Of the employees who worked from home in the last four weeks, around one in four (24%) felt unwell at least once in the last two weeks and chose to work from home instead of taking an absence from work.

Absences from work in the last two weeks

In November 2020, the survey asked a number of questions about absences from work. Over one in five (22%) people who work for an employer had taken at least one all-day absence from work in the last two weeks. This is similar to results from the last time the ABS collected this data, where 21% of employees had an all-day absence from work in November 2003 (Working Arrangements, Australia, Nov 2003).

In 2020, more employees (4%) were absent for ten days or more in November compared with 2003 (1%).

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  1. Does not include employees who did not have any all-day absences from work in the last two weeks
  2. November 2003 data from Working Arrangements, Australia, Nov 2003

For those employees who had at least one all-day absence from work in November 2020:

  • 72% only used paid leave for all absences
  • 15% only used unpaid leave for all absences
  • 7% used both paid and unpaid leave.

The most common types of leave taken for employees who had at least one all-day absence in the last two weeks were:

  • sick leave (35%)
  • annual or holiday leave (31%).

Around two in five (42%) employees worked from home one or more times in the last four weeks. Of these employees, around one in four (24%) felt unwell at least once in the last two weeks and chose to work from home instead of taking an absence from work.

Reasons for choosing to work from home rather than take leave included:

  • the type of illness (61%*)
  • to manage caring and working responsibilities (48%*)
  • personal preference (37%*)
  • to manage the risk of infecting others (33%*).

One in 11 (9%) employees reported working from home when unwell because they had no paid leave left.

Life after the COVID-19 pandemic

Key findings

  • In November 2020, one in seven (15%) people reported life had already returned to normal, compared with one in ten (10%) in July 2020.
  • Fewer people in Victoria (5%) and New South Wales (13%) were likely to report that life had returned to normal in November (compared with 24% in the rest of Australia).
  • The most common aspect of life Australians wanted to continue after the COVID-19 restrictions ease was spending more time with family and friends (37%).

Time expected for life to return to normal

Respondents were asked to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on their health and lifestyle and how long they expected it would be before their lives returned to normal. 'Normal' was left to the respondent to define. The same question was previously asked in July 2020.

In November 2020, one in seven (15%) people reported life had already returned to normal, compared with one in ten (10%) in July 2020.

Around one in five (21%) people in November were unsure or felt that life would never return to normal (similar to 19% of people in July).

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  1. 'Normal' was left to the respondent to define. If asked, examples were provided such as "your life before COVID-19" or "before the 1st March"

At the time of the survey, Victoria was rapidly removing the strong restrictions after several days with zero new cases of COVID-19. New South Wales had less restrictions and an average of six new cases daily, all from overseas and kept in quarantine. Fewer people in Victoria (5%) and New South Wales (13%) were likely to report that life had returned to normal (compared with 24% from the rest of Australia).

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  1. 'Normal' was left to the respondent to define. If asked, examples were provided such as "your life before COVID-19" or "before the 1st March"
  2. Rest of Australia includes Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

Aspects of life to continue after COVID-19 restrictions

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

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

In addition to the responses above, people were given the option to provide their own response, or to report none of the responses in the list.

One in eight (13%) people wanted none of the selected aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions to continue.

In November 2020, the aspects of life under COVID-19 restrictions that Australians reported they would most like to see continue were:

  • spending more time with family and friends (37%)
  • spending more time outdoors (32%)
  • spending less and saving more (32%)
  • less environmental impact (30%)
  • working from home (30%)
  • slower pace of life (30%)
  • taking more domestic holidays (30%).

In November, women were more likely than men to want to continue:

  • spending more time with family and friends (44% compared with 30%)
  • a slower pace of life (36% compared with 24%)
  • working from home (34% compared with 26%).

Other results included:

  • people in family households with children (33%) were more likely than those living alone (18%) to want to continue spending more time at home
  • people born overseas (19%) were more likely than those born in Australia (12%) to want to continue connecting with friends and family online
  • people aged 65 years and older (22%) were more likely than people aged 18 to 64 years (11%) to select none of the aspects of life to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s next?

The next two cycles of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey will be published together at the end of February 2021. The ABS will follow up with the same larger sample of around 3,400 people in December and January.

The December topics include:

  • changes to living arrangements
  • changes to job status and hours of paid work
  • unpaid work on selected activities
  • use of stimulus payments
  • general health and wellbeing
  • household financial stress
  • attitudes toward COVID-19 (including restrictions and vaccines)
  • symptom testing behaviours
  • use of mental health services
  • participation in selected activities.

The January topics include:

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

Some topics are subject to change depending on testing.

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 - 18

History of changes

14/12/2020 - The data was updated for two graphs in the Shopping online and in-person chapter: 'Persons aged 18 years and over, preference to do more shopping online than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, by state and territory' and 'Persons aged 18 years and over, usual or intended shopping from November to January, online and in-person'. All links to 'View all releases' have been removed. 

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4940.0