Satisfaction with government jobs policies drops

Australians’ satisfaction with government economic policies is falling, with a large proportion of people unemployed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic not benefiting from the JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes, 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 eighth round of the survey was conducted from 25-28 May.

Satisfaction with the government’s policies to keep people at work fell to 62 per cent after averaging 66 per cent for the previous five weeks of the survey, which began in April.

The proportion of Australians reporting satisfaction with government policy was highest (72 per cent) for people with increased working hours and lowest (51 per cent) for those unemployed due to the pandemic but looking for work.

Melbourne Institute researcher Professor Guay Lim said the results highlighted the contrasting experiences of those who are unemployed due to COVID-19, due to those out of work for other reasons.

“A closer look at unemployed respondents who expressed dissatisfaction in the survey results reveals a stark difference between those unemployed due to COVID-19, of whom 21 per cent expressed dissatisfaction, and the 12 per cent of those unemployed for reasons unrelated to the pandemic who expressed dissatisfaction,” Professor Lim.

“This may reflect the uptake of the JobSeeker payments. On average, over the past three weeks of the survey, JobSeeker payments were received by 26 per cent of those unemployed due to COVID-19 and 38 per cent of those unemployed due to other causes.”

People with reduced working hours had the highest level of dissatisfaction with government policies (24 per cent). The average uptake of JobKeeper payments was 28 per cent.

In a Research Insight paper also released today on employment income in Australia during COVID-19, Melbourne Institute researcher Professor Guyonne Kalb said young people aged 18 to 24 are two to three times more likely to be unemployed due to COVID-19 than to people aged 35 to 64.

“Although a larger proportion of the younger age group is unemployed and more likely to face reduced hours, the probability of receiving JobSeeker is lower, at 9.4 per cent versus 12.7 per cent for older Australians,” Professor Kalb said.

“Furthermore, only 32 per cent of workers who lost hours due to COVID-19, received JobKeeper. This suggests two out of every three workers negatively affected by the virus are falling through the cracks of the JobKeeper scheme.”

Professor Kalb said there remains a large proportion of the population who do not benefit from these schemes. “With the impact of the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic expected to be long lasting, consideration of more targeted versions of JobSeeker and JobKeeper could help to ensure the worst affected businesses and employees are supported for a longer period of time,” Professor Kalb said.

The latest survey results also show a small increase in pessimism, with a greater proportion of respondents re-thinking their expectations about the duration of the effects of the pandemic on economic activity. There was also a small increase in the proportion of people who reported experiencing mental distress and a small decrease in the proportion of survey respondents who reported being financially stressed.

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

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*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.