A Pandemic Perspective
Updated: Aug 31
As more businesses shut their doors under Victoria’s new Stage 4 restrictions, leaving a further quarter of a million workers jobless, many Victorian families have no idea when or where their next job or pay is coming from.
Despite much of Victoria’s employment being negatively impacted by COVID-19, certain businesses such as supermarkets, bottle shops, transport and delivery services, home improvement and various online retailers have thrived in this strange new world. Determined entrepreneurs have taken this upheaval as an opportunity to innovate and broaden their horizons and are reaping the financial rewards. And there is also a relatively fortunate cluster of Victorians with more income than they received previously, thanks to government schemes such as JobKeeper.
There is no denying that this pandemic is impacting everyone differently. However, I have observed four main work or employment groups emerging, based on earnings and hours worked.
What cluster best describes your situation?
FOUR EMERGING EMPLOYMENT CLUSTERS
Despite the pain of the lockdown measures, there is a group of part time workers that are faring better than expected. They have had their working hours reduced, in some cases to zero, but JobKeeper has provided them with more money than they previously earned. For them, less work for more pay has been a delightful outcome in a difficult situation, for the short term at least.
For the hardest hit, there is no work and little if any support. Think of the decimated arts sector, casual hospitality or retail workers and international students. They may or may not be eligible for government support, leaving them struggling to meet their living expenses. Feeling somewhat helpless and humiliated, this group may be dependent on rent relief, mortgage holidays, family, friends and charitable groups for help, and the end is nowhere in sight.
For business owners and others working long hours for little reward things are also dire. With government support they are desperately trying to hang on and provide themselves and their staff with a job. We’ve seen top notch chefs delivering meals, café owners staying open for a meagre stream of takeaways, and retailers struggling to shift their businesses online in the absence of foot traffic. They are stressed out and terrified of what lays ahead for them and their people when government help dries up.
And then there are those who are working from home or getting up and going to work every day as (COVID) normal. Some are working harder and doing better than ever financially. Our knowledge workers, staff in essential sectors and the reduced numbers of people still permitted to work within the lockdown guidelines are delivering for themselves and for the rest of us. Some are fearful for their own health, exhausted and close to burn out, others are experiencing a version of ‘survivors guilt’ for having a job when many do not, still others would relish the chance to reduce their working hours whilst retaining their income through schemes available to their employers.
Although just one high-level perspective of our current crisis, these quadrants shine a light on the uncertain and perilous situations many Victorians never expected to experience, and hint at the flow on effects that will last for years.
Everyone is impacted and the social, economic, and emotional toll is immense. In some households there are people in all quadrants. Feelings of isolation, helplessness, depression, guilt, overwhelm, determination, optimism and even gratitude coexist. When it comes to our work, most of us are just getting on with it and doing the best we can, often in vastly changed work and home environments.
The fact that we are all in this together provides some solace. Let’s make sure we do the right thing and support one another as we navigate the perils yet to come, so we can all contribute to the revival of our State and country when we inevitably emerge from this pandemic and reclaim the title of “The Lucky Country”.