COVID-19: The true cost of the crisis in Australia

Researchers have tallied the total loss in working hours and productivity cost of COVID for the first time

COVID-19: The true cost of the crisis in Australia

There has been much research published this year about the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of employees.

For example, Superfriend found three in five Australian workers experienced a mental health condition this year (up almost nine percent from 2019), with many struggling for the first time during the pandemic.

Now, new statistics have uncovered the financial and productivity loss of the pandemic for the first time.

The research found that on average working Australians lost 167 hours of work worth more than $5,000 each from the start of March to the end of October, due to COVID-19.

The investigation by The Australian National University (ANU) is based on their longitudinal study running since February and before the spread of COVID-19.

Study co-lead, Professor Nicholas Biddle, said the total number of average hours worked by individuals between February and October was 692.

"That's down from an expected 760 hours if everyone kept on working at their February levels," said Biddle.

The study also found that many Australians  were foregoing vital potential income.

Read more: Is it too dangerous to bring staff back to the office?

"On average, the total loss in production per employed Australia was worth $5,885 between February and October, or $2,379 per adult if we count non-employed workers,” Biddle added.

This gives a total estimated loss of production equal to around $47 billion or 1.3 billion hours due to the COVID-Recession.

Interestingly, the analysis shows weekly work hours dropped for both males and females between February and April, with a steady uptick since then.

However, work hours for both males and females have not bounced back to February levels.

Average hours worked for all females fell from 18.8 in February to 16.1 in April. They sit at 18.2 hours in October.

For males, average hours worked declined from 25.0 in February to 21.5 in April. They currently sit at 22.7.

Study co-author Professor Matthew Gray added that over the entire period, the total loss in hours worked was greater for males (an average of 95 hours) than for females (38.5 hours).

Read more: How to thrive under pressure – and avoid burnout

"It is true that in relative terms the difference is not as large, as males worked more hours on average at the start of the period,” said Gray.

“But, males are still estimated to have lost a greater proportion of expected hours (10.8%) compared to females (6.1%)."

The greatest loss of working hours was for Australian workers who completed Year 12, but do not have a university degree.

"We also found workers who did not complete Year 12 lost fewer hours than other workers," said Biddle.

"And workers born overseas in a non-English speaking country lost a substantially larger number of work hours (104) than an otherwise equivalent Australian-born worker."

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