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Changes in paid and unpaid activities during the COVID-19 pandemic: exploring labour supply and labour demand

COVID-19 Youth unemployment Economic indicators Labour market Labour market disruption Australia


This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the labour market and related outcomes of Australian adults at the time at which COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions are being lifted. Using data collected by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there is some evidence that by the end of May 2020, employment outcomes were starting to improve relative to their low point at the end of April/start of May. Furthermore, this improvement has continued through to the end of June/start of July 2020.

The initial loss of employment and hours worked, and then subsequent slight improvements, have had a differential impact on the population. Furthermore, changes in other unpaid activities have been experienced differently across the population. Females who stopped working were far more likely to have taken on housework and caring roles, and also appear to have stopped looking for work. Males, on the other hand, appear to be slightly more likely to have moved into education as their main role, and are far more likely to be still actively seeking work. Both males and females have increased the hours that they have spent working from home. We also show that some occupations have fared worse than others, particularly Community and Personal Service Workers; Labourers; and Technicians and Trades Workers. The industries that have fared worse on our Economic-Misery Index tend to be those that employ young Australians, those who were born overseas, and those who speak a language other than English. Finally, we show that the changes in economic activity described above have had a demonstrable impact on wellbeing. In what we understand to be the first longitudinal analysis of wellbeing and labour market outcomes during COVID-19, at least in Australia, we show that males and females who have lost their job have significantly lower levels of life satisfaction.

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