Virus to smash Australian jobs

The coronavirus has caused businesses to close and lay off employees around the world and new figures show up to 3.4 million Australians could be out of work as a direct result of social distancing.

A new report from the Grattan Institute estimating the immediate hit to employment calculated between 14 and 26 per cent of Australian workers could be out of work in the coming weeks as a direct result of mandatory and voluntary spatial distancing. That percentage equates to between 1.9 to 3.4 million Australians.

The report, Shutdown: estimating the COVID-19 employment shock, estimates unemployment will rise substantially in the coming months, but the Commonwealth Government's new JobKeeper wage subsidy will obscure much of the impact. It predicts the unemployment rate will rise to between 10 and 15 per cent.


About 840,000 people are employed in food and beverage services in Australia, and the report calculated more than half of all workers in the hospitality industry could be left without jobs due to the virus. Other industries identified at risk are retail trade, education and training, and the arts.

The new report identifies hospitality works as those who will be hit hardest.
The new report identifies hospitality works as those who will be hit hardest.

The report found lower-income workers are twice as likely to lose their jobs and younger Australians and women are more likely to suffer because they commonly work in the industries affected by the virus.

Last month the government celebrated unexpectedly good employment figures, which showed the number of Australians in work had exceeded 13 million people.

The figures showed Australia's unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent for the month of February and the participation rate is at the highest point in almost 20 years.

While announcing the data last month, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash conceded the strong figures don't reflect the challenges currently being faced by many, particularly small businesses as a result of coronavirus.

"But what the figures do show - and the fact that we do have a record number of Australians in employment - is that we are facing this crisis and we come from a very good base," she said.

Originally published as Virus to smash Australian jobs