How have the COVID-19 lockdowns affected employment in Australia?

Summary 

  • Until the beginning of July, Australia was doing very well in terms of recovery. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in June 2021, unemployment decreased to 4.9% from 5.1% in the previous month.
  • The recent lockdowns have forced changes that have caused temporary visa holders' concern amidst the closing of public-facing businesses.
  • The Australian government has introduced changes to the regulation on visa requirements to ease the impact of working restrictions for temporary visa holders.

This time last year, Australia – and the rest of the world – was in lockdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Cut to today, and much of the world is out of lockdown – a benefit resulting from the Covid vaccine rollout. Unfortunately, however, much of Australia is in the midst of another lockdown, this time more stringent as ever, as the Delta 4 variant looms large in the community.

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Source: © Rido | Megapixl.com

This has impacted non-essential workers, who’ve been required to stay at home amidst the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

The outbreak in Sydney reached record highs on 29 July as 239 new cases were announced in New South Wales yesterday. Extra enforcement measures are also in place in Sydney’s hotspot areas, with AU$500 fines being handed out to those not wearing masks.

Employment Figures

Until July, Australia was doing very well in terms of recovery. In fact, at the beginning of June 2020, it appeared as if Australia’s economy had taken a positive turn.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in June 2021, unemployment decreased to 4.9% from 5.1% in the previous month of May. In fact, over the year to June 2021, employment increased by 6.3%.

The employment to population ratio, according to the ABS, increased to 63% in June 2021.

However, the ABS also reported that the underemployment rate increased to 7.9%. This is likely due to the decrease in monthly hours worked, which was 33 million hours.

Impact on temporary visa holders

The recent lockdowns have forced changes that have caused temporary visa holders' concern amidst the closing of public-facing businesses.

There are currently over 1 million visa holders across Australia, and although not all of them have working rights, many of them do. For these workers, the COVID-19 lockdown has had a devastating impact on their finances.

Many of these visa holders have been unable to meet their basic living needs, particularly as they’re not qualified to receive the JobKeeper and JobSeeker financial aid packages.

Changes to visa application requirements

The Australian government has introduced changes to the regulation on visa requirements to ease the impact of working restrictions for temporary visa holders.

Temporary visa holders who’ve been disadvantaged and are on a path to permanent residency are being assisted by The Migration Amendment (COVID-19 Concessions) Regulations 2020 (COVID-19 Concessions).

These amendments include providing concessions regarding application requirements, visa criteria and specified levels of business activity.

Additionally, holders of student visas will be awarded Temporary Graduate Visas, which will allow for the application of post-study visas to be made from outside Australia during a concession period.

Whilst the Australian government is providing unprecedented levels of concessions to visa holders during this lockdown period, feedback suggests these changes are not enough for struggling visa holders.

As such, the government faces an uphill challenge in accommodating these individuals and keeping Australia’s reputation as a supportive and accommodating destination intact.

Sydney’s central station during COVID-19 lockdown (Source: © Susanpayne11 | Megapixl.com)

When will it end?

Sydney is currently facing its fifth week of lockdown, which is currently scheduled to end on 28 August. However, the NSW state government has said that lockdown will not cease until there are near zero cases in the community.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has warned that the current recorded cases are likely to continue to rise.

Meanwhile, the impact on the local economy as a result of the lockdown of over six million people is expected to take a heavy toll on Sydney’s economy, with the prospect of a second recession well and truly on the cards.

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