Financial stress due to COVID-19 is on the rise

Despite satisfaction with government economic policies to support jobs and keep people connected to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, negative economic conditions appear to be having an impact on people’s finances, according to the latest survey by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne.

The Taking the Pulse of the Nation weekly survey tracks changes in the economic and social wellbeing of Australians living through the effects of the pandemic. The seventh round of the survey was conducted from 18-22 May.

The proportion of Australians reporting financial stress has increased to 28 per cent from 24 per cent in last week’s survey.

Around 40 per cent of people working in the accommodation, food and recreational services and retail trade sectors have expressed concerns about paying for essential items, possibly reflecting the high number of job losses in those industries.

Since the Government’s 8 May announcement of restrictions easing, the proportion of Australians who expect the pandemic’s economic effects to last more than 12 months fell from 57 per cent to 50 per cent. Reflecting on their personal circumstances, 40 per cent of respondents said they expected to be affected for at least another six months, while 20 per cent expected the impact to last  more than 12 months.

This week the Melbourne Institute also published a Research Insights paper exploring the importance of contact tracing measures for minimising the risk of a second outbreak of the virus as economic activities and social interactions increase over the coming weeks.

Recent estimates indicate that 5.7 million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe app, but Melbourne Institute researcher Professor Yuting Zhang, who authored the paper, said this figure needs to increase.

“If we want a continued good news outcome for Australia, the government must play a vital role in increasing uptake of the COVIDSafe app, either via reminders or direct communication that clearly explains why it is needed for safety and to address concerns,” Professor Zhang said.

“If even half of the 32 per cent of people who indicated in the Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey that they would download the app actually do it, it would make the tracking system more effective and speed up the relaxation of restrictions.”

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.

Media enquiries: Linda McSweeny | + 61 466 696 941 |

*The weekly survey by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne contains responses from 1,200 people aged 18 years and over, with the sample stratified by gender, age and location to represent the Australian population.