Study shows Australians happy working from home, men and women are looking to upskill, but young people feeling the pinch

Almost 70% of Australians who have been working from home because of COVID-19 would like to continue doing so according to the latest Taking The Pulse of the Nation survey. The survey found, of those who are employed, half of Australians are working mostly from home (59% of Victorians and 47% of those in the rest of Australia).

Working from home is highest among 25-34 year-olds, and more men are working from home than women. 55% of younger employees – the 18-24 age group - are still going to work, compared to 45% working from home.

A third of Australians are looking to upskill in response to the pandemic. Men were most likely to be doing so to keep their current job, while most women are upskilling to find new work.

Led by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne, the fornightly survey tracks changes in the economic and social wellbeing of Australians. The 19th wave of the survey was conducted from 14 – 18 September.

Professor Guay Lim, lead author of the survey report, said six months of social distancing restrictions seem to have changed our attitudes to work.

“Employers and employees have adapted. Should working from home become part of the new normal, it will have fundamental effects on infrastructure needs and policies concerned with connecting where people live with where people work,” Professor Lim said.

A Research Insight paper based on the survey has found young people have taken the biggest hit to their working lives. The data show that one in five Australians aged 18-24 suffered a job loss during the first months of the pandemic. The employment rates have mostly bounced back outside of Victoria but there is still a difference between the employment rates of young Australians versus older Australians. In Victoria, the employment rates are better today but the the second wave has affected the return to work for young Victorians more severely than older Victorians.

Across gender, young women have suffered more than young men. The employment rates fell most for young women in April (44% for women versus 56% for men) and by September, while the overall rates of employment have increased for both genders, they have increased faster for young men (64% for men versus 59 percent for women).

23% of young people report experiencing high levels of mental distress in the last six months, more than twice the rate as before the pandemic.

Dr Jan Kabátek, author of the research, said the findings highlight the pressure points for young Australians in the labour market.

“Young workers were likely more affected because they work in industries most affected by the shut down and are more likely to be employed on casual contracts. Without JobSeeker or JobKeeper arrangements, this population would be at higher risk of negative economic shocks than other age groups. While JobSeeker was a necessary stopgap measure given the immediacy of the problem, now is the time to think about longer term solutions for supporting casual contract workers,” said Dr. Kabátek.

Interact with the results of the Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey and explore the differences based on gender and age on our tracker page.