Big jump in satisfaction with government; mental distress and financial stress declines

Australians’ satisfaction with government performance during the COVID-19 pandemic has risen to its highest level since July, according to the latest Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey.

The survey, conducted in late November, found 60 per cent of Australians are satisfied with the government, up from 53 per cent in early November, driven by large increases in satisfaction in New South Wales  and Victoria.

Satisfaction rose by only two percentage-points in South Australia, but disatisfaction fell by a huge 20 percentage-points. The survey was conducted during the week of the state’s brief but intense lockdown.

The number of people reporting mental distress fell to the lowest level in months, with 15 per cent of Australians feeling distressed or anxious, down from 23 per cent in early November. Mental distress fell by 22 percentage points in South Australia. Financial stress has also fallen, from 26 per cent in early November, to 21 per cent in the latest survey.

Led by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne, the fortnightly Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey tracks changes in the economic and social wellbeing of Australians. The twenty-third wave of the survey was conducted from 16-20 November.

The survey also shows the number of people working from home has fallen to 43 per cent, down from half of Australians in September. However, the number of women who would prefer to work from home has risen, from 67 per cent to 84 per cent. Preference for working from home among men has fallen from 72 per cent to 68 per cent.

Professor Guay Lim, lead author of the survey report, said the top three reasons for wanting to work from home were reduced infection risk, no need to commute, and getting more work done at home.

“The top two reasons for people preferring to go back to the office were better teamwork and better internet.  Surprisingly, only a small percentage felt the need for visibility at the work place for advancement,” Professor Lim said.

In a Research Insight paper based on the survey, researchers found women were disproportionately affected by Melbourne’s lockdown. They found 39 per cent of women in Melbourne reported working reduced hours due to COVID-19, compared with a quarter of women in other metro areas.

More men than women reported reduced hours in regional Australia, but women reported higher rates of unemployment due to the pandemic.

Professor Guyonne Kalb, lead author on the paper, said this loss of work was not matched by a corresponding increase in the uptake of JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments.

“We need to take a closer look at the sectors where regional women are employed,” Professor Kalb said.

“ It might be that more women in the regions work in the hospitality sector, which has been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It has become vitally important now to consider the other opportunities that could be created specifically for women in regional areas.”

Interact with the results of the Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey on our tracker page.