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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on jobs, hours worked, health precautions, hygiene, social distancing, self-isolation, flu vaccination and travel

Reference period
1-6 Apr 2020
Released
20/04/2020

Key findings

  • At the start of April, 68% of people were concerned or very concerned about their personal health due to the spread of COVID-19.
  • Almost everyone reported that they were keeping their distance from other people (98%) with many also avoiding public spaces and events (88%) and cancelling plans to gather with friends and family (87%).
  • At the start of April, 63% of people in Australia over the age of 18 had a job.
  • One in four people (26%) who had a job in the first week of April worked less hours than usual in the previous week, whilst 13% worked more hours than usual.
     

About this issue

This publication presents results from the first Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, which collected information from 1,059 people, via telephone, throughout Australia between the 31st March and 6th of April 2020.

This iteration of the survey collected information on:

  • concerns about personal health due to the spread of COVID-19;
  • health precautions taken in response to COVID-19;
  • job situation; and
  • flu vaccination intentions.
     

The scope of the survey was persons aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas).

It is the first survey in a new series, designed to provide a quick snapshot about how Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time of the survey, a range of initiatives were announced to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy. These included:

  • introduction of international travel restrictions;
  • the first announcement of an economic stimulus package (12 March);
  • introduction of border control measures for some states and territories;
  • shutting down of non-essential services and the announcement of a second economic stimulus package (22 March);
  • social distancing rules and additional shutdown restrictions (21 - 29 March);
  • JobKeeper payment announcement (30 March); and
  • free childcare for working parents (2 April).
     

At the time of this survey, the household economic stimulus payments were in the process of being distributed and information was not collected on how they were used. However, the next release of survey results will contain information about receipt of stimulus payments and how people intend to use them.

Estimates marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. For more information about relative standard refer to the publication Methodology.

Job situation

The survey collected information on the current (first week of April) job situation of all respondents; the job situation of all respondents four weeks prior (first week of March); and changes in hours worked in the last week for respondents currently with a job.

This survey is intended to provide a snapshot of the changes being experienced by people in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked simple questions about changes to their job situation, rather than the full suite of employment-related questions included in the ABS’ Labour Force Survey (see Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey, cat. no. 6232.0). The results of this survey are, therefore, not directly comparable to Australia’s official Labour Force measures. More information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 can be found here.

The diagram below shows the self-reported change in job situation of people living in Australia aged 18 years and over between the beginning of March and the beginning of April.

Table 1 - Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job situation

 1st week of March (%)1st week of April (%)Change (%)
Has a job
66
63
-3
Currently working paid hours
64
56
-8
Not currently working paid hours
2*
8
5
Does not have a paid job(a)
34
37
3
a. 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.
* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution 
 

The proportion of Australians who reported they had a job working paid hours decreased from 64% in the first week of March to 56% in the first week of April, while the proportion who reported that they did not have a paid job increased by 3%.

Changes in amount of hours worked

Of the people in Australia aged over 18 who had a job in the first week of April:

  • 12% worked more hours that week than usual due to COVID-19;
  • 24% worked less hours than usual due to COVID-19; and
  • 61% worked about the same amount of hours that week as usual.
     

Diagram 1 - Persons aged 18 years and over, changes in amount of hours worked last week

Flowchart showing change in hours worked in the last week for persons aged 18 years and over

Diagram 1 - Persons aged 18 years and over, changes in amount of hours worked last week

Flow diagram of change in hours worked in the last week for persons aged 18 years and over. 13 per cent worked more hours than usual, 26 per cent worked less hours than usual, and the remaining 61 per cent worked around the same hours. Reasons for working more hours: were COVID-19 12 per cent and other reason 1 per cent. Reasons for working less hours were: COVID-19 24 per cent and other reason 2 per cent.

The flow diagram shows 13% worked more hours than usual, 26% worked less hours than usual, and the remaining 61% worked around the same amount hours. Reasons for working more hours: were COVID-19: 12% and other reason 1%. Reasons for working less hours were COVID-19: 24% and other reason 2%.


Over half (60%) of those with a job who worked less hours in the last week because of COVID-19 said it was due to a reduction in the amount of work available, whilst 15%* said it was because they were stood down by their employer.

Concerns about personal health

Approximately two-thirds of Australians (68%) were concerned or very concerned about their personal health because of the spread of COVID-19.

When broken down by sex:

  • 73% of women were concerned or very concerned for their personal health because of the spread of COVID 19; and
  • 62% of men were concerned or very concerned for their personal health because of the spread of COVID 19.
     
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When broken down by age:

  • 67% of persons aged 18-64 years were concerned or very concerned for their personal health because of the spread of COVID 19; and
  • 71% of persons aged 65 years and over were concerned or very concerned for their personal health because of the spread of COVID 19.
     
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Personal hygiene

Almost nine in ten Australians (87%) reported washing their hands and/or using sanitiser more than usual in the last four weeks due to the spread of COVID-19, while 13% reported washing their hands and/or using sanitiser about the same as usual.

The results were similar for men and women.

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Approximately half of Australians (49%) reported touching their face less than usual in the last four weeks due to the spread of COVID-19, while just under half (45%) reported touching their face about the same as usual.

When broken down by sex:

  • 53% of women reported touching their face less than usual; and
  • 45% of men reported touching their face less than usual.
     
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Includes persons who did not know whether their frequency of face touching had changed, therefore components may not sum to 100%.
 

When broken down by age:

  • 53% of persons aged 18 to 64 years reported touching their face less than usual; and
  • 34% of persons aged 65 years and over reported touching their face less than usual.
     
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Includes persons who did not know whether their frequency of face touching had changed, therefore components may not sum to 100%.
 

Health precautions

Almost all Australians have taken at least one health precaution in the last four weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The most common health precautions taken by Australians were:

  • keeping distance from people (98%);
  • avoiding public spaces and public events (88%); and
  • cancelling personal gatherings (87%).


Similar proportions of women and men took each of the various health precautions.

Download
  1. Multiple response option. Respondents may have reported more than one health precaution taken. Components will not sum to 100%.
  2. Includes public events.
  3. Examples include with friends or family.
  4. Including from pop up and fever clinics.
     

A higher proportion of people aged 65 years and over reported that they were self-isolating than people between 18 and 64 years old. The younger group were more likely to be working and to have children in their care, and were therefore more likely than those aged 65 and above to be working from home and keeping children home as precautions.

Download
  1. Multiple response option. Respondents may have reported more than one health precaution taken. Components will not sum to 100%.
  2. Includes public events.
  3. Examples include with friends or family.
  4. Including from pop up and fever clinics.

* Estimate for persons aged 65 years and over has an RSE between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

Flu vaccination

Health authorities have recommended that all Australians aged 6 months and older should receive flu vaccinations this year to reduce the risk of contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Go to www.health.gov.au for more information.

Approximately one in ten people living in Australia aged over 18 (2.2 million or 11%) have already had a flu vaccination this year. Of these:

  • 82% said they usually have a flu vaccination; and
  • 15%* said they had the flu vaccination due to the spread of COVID-19 only.
     

Of the remaining 17.2 million Australians who have not had a flu vaccination this year:

  • 71% (12.3 million) intend to have a flu vaccination this year; and
  • 29% (4.9 million) do not intend to have a flu vaccination this year.
     

Of the 12.3 million Australians who have not had a flu vaccination this year but intend to have one:

  • 27% (3.3 million) intend to have a flu vaccination because of COVID-19 only; and
  • 73% (8.9 million) intend to have a flu vaccination for other reasons.
     

Changes or cancellation of travel plans

Approximately half of all Australians (52%) reported having to change or cancel their travel plans during March due to the spread of COVID-19.

In terms of domestic or international travel, of those who changed or cancelled their travel plans:

  • 57% changed or cancelled domestic travel only;
  • 26% changed or cancelled international travel only; and
  • 17% changed or cancelled both domestic and international travel.
     

In terms of work-related or personal travel, of those who changed or cancelled their travel plans:

  • 3% changed or cancelled work-related travel only;
  • 90% changed or cancelled personal travel only; and
  • 7% changed or cancelled both work-related and personal travel.
     

What’s next?

The ABS followed up with people involved in this survey between 14th and 16th April. Topics covered in this second iteration of the household survey included:

  • Current job situation compared to 1 week ago;
  • How stimulus payments were used;
  • Financial and psychological stress measures; and
  • Communication with friends and family.
     

Information from this second survey will be released in early May.

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 outbreak.

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1-4

History of changes

Show all

11/05/2020 - A data cube containing a selection of tables was added to the Data downloads section.

20/04/2020 - Updated wording in the media release from “The survey found that around 3% of people who had a job in early March no longer had one by early April” to “The survey found that the proportion of people who had a job fell by 3 percentage points between early March and early April”