COVID-19 infections, labour market shocks, and subjective well-being

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 14/20

Date: August 2020


Ferdi Botha
John P. de New


This is the first paper to present novel findings on how simultaneously (a) labour market shocks and (b) infections in the household, directly due to COVID-19, have impacted on life satisfaction and domain satisfactions. Using data from a world-wide online survey of almost 5,700 respondents across six countries, we estimate the associations of COVID-19-related labour market shocks and COVID-19 infection with life satisfaction and a range of domain satisfactions. Directly due to COVID-19, experiencing either (i) a reduction in salary and working hours, or (ii) unemployment or filing for unemployment benefits is significantly associated with lower reported satisfaction with family life, family health, available health services, and finances. The relationship is especially large for financial satisfaction. Reporting any COVID-19 labour market shock is also related to lower life satisfaction. Persons in households that have experienced a COVID-19 infection report significantly lower satisfaction with life, health, family life, and finances. Noteworthy is that labour market shocks are much more important in explaining subjective well-being compared to COVID-19 infections. The findings highlight the wide range of subjective well-being domains adversely affected by shocks to the labour market and health brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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