The ANU study is the first longitudinal examination of the economic, political, social and mental impacts of the Covid 19 crisis.
It found the decline in employment in the COVID crisis largest for those aged 18-24, while the oldest workers (65 and over) were also taking a relatively large hit. “If previous periods of high unemployment are any guide, the effect on the young is likely to be felt throughout their working life, and those who leave the labour force when close to retirement age may never return”.
The study found the probability of remaining employed in April was much greater for professionals, clerical and administrative workers, machinery operators and drivers than for other workers.
Technicians and trades workers, community and personal services workers, sales workers and labourers who were working in February were less likely to be employed in April.
While the study documents the harm of the crisis on the job front, and in social isolation, psychological distress, and uncertainty about the future, it also found some upsides.
Confidence in government and the public service improved, and social trust rose.
Between January and April confidence in the federal government increased from 27.3% to 56.6%. State and territory governments enjoyed a boost – from 40.4% to 66.7%. Confidence in the public service rose from 48.8% to 64.8%.
“Social cohesion has improved between February and April 2020 based on measures that Australians think most people can be trusted, that people are fair and that people are helpful.”
The study says: “During times of economic stress and uncertainty, there is a real risk that social cohesion, trust in others, and confidence in the government will decline. There is no evidence for this (yet) in Australia, and if anything social cohesion has increased.
“Australians are more likely to think that their fellow Australians can be trusted, are generally fair, and are generally helpful than they were prior to the spread of COVID-19.
“Confidence in the government has also increased.
“What is perhaps most surprising is that satisfaction with the direction of the country has increased quite substantially not only since January 2020 when Australia was being wracked by bushfires, but also since October 2019.