COVID-19 and the Australian labour market: how did older Australians fare during 2020?
Background In analysing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market, attention has focussed on younger people, leaving a research gap when it comes to outcomes for older Australians aged 50 years or over, in terms of employment, unemployment, underemployment and hours worked.
Aims To describe levels of labour force participation, unemployment, underemployment, and hours worked by older workers and job seekers during 2020.
Data and methods Using Australian Bureau of Statistics data, we perform descriptive analyses of variations in labour market outcomes by geographic areas, public and private sector employment, industry of employment and demographic characteristics.
Results Older employment fell in April but recovered by December. As the full-time share initially increased, average hours worked decreased due to reductions in hours offered to workers, increasing the underemployment rate. There was little recovery of employment in metropolitan Melbourne due to prolonged lockdown conditions. Of the largest industries, retail trade and manufacturing were worst affected.
Conclusions By December 2020, employment levels for older workers in some sectors had recovered from the initial downturn caused by the pandemic. However, for older workers in some industries, there is a major concern about their potential for future employment.