COVID-19: First Gauge Survey Results
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has launched a new regional-focused survey called The Gauge that aims to check the pulse of regional Australia. This survey will look at economic and social impacts of significant events and issues.
Our first survey, which was launched in March, focusses on COVID-19 – and here are the results!
Snapshot of key themes
- Across regional Australia people, who can, are working from home and implementing online services to connect with staff. This survey data shows that 79% of respondent are working from home – both as a measure they did before (36%) and after COVID-19 (42%). This means the number of respondents working from home as more than doubled following COVID-19 restrictions.
- Of the 36% of respondents that said they already worked from home before COVID-19, close to half of the respondents work in the agriculture industry.
- Most of the respondents who have been working from home since COVID-19 work in professional services, education, health as well as public administration. However, as noted this survey does not include responses across all industries and therefore may not capture if people working in other industries have started working from home since COVID-19.
- Only 14% indicated they are still commuting to work in regional Australia. The majority of people still commuting, work in professional services, construction or agriculture.
We are developing packages for delivering training via distance. Staff are enjoying the creativity and using new technology. At the same time a high level of support through IT, Training videos & blogs is needed and luckily available through our organisation
Heightened anxiety. Increased workload. Reduced capacity.
Change to business and the workplace
- 95% of respondents said their business or workplace in regional Australia had been affected by COVID-19. More than half of those respondents said it had been affected a great deal.
- Respondents told us that the inability to communicate face-to-face, hold events and meet with customers had forced them to change the way they do business. Many businesses have had to completely overhaul their service delivery and look at online options.
- With regions not immune from COVID-19, this survey highlights that adjustments are already being undertaken in workplaces and businesses, including implementing new hygiene measures, reducing services provided, working from home, reduced opening hours, staff reductions and, for 2 businesses, permanent closure.
- 23% of respondents said they had seen new hygiene measures implemented in the workplace.
- 18% of respondents said they had had to reduce services offered by their business or workplace.
- Almost the same number of respondents (18%) said COVID-19 had other impacts.
- Working from home was an impact identified by 10% of respondents.
- Staff reductions were experienced by 9% of respondents.
- 9% of respondents also said opening hours were shortened.
- 7% of respondents noted that businesses have had to “close for a long period of time”.
- 5% of respondents said they had a shortage in access to workers, however this may have existed before COVID-19.
- 1% of respondents said they had to close their business permanently.
Interestingly… Our community has been very innovative in terms of delivery and takeaway services. The issue is… just as they establish it, the rules change.
Financial Impact on business
- When asked about the financial impact of COVID-19, more than a quarter of respondents told us that their business cash-flow had been affected by more than 50%, which could be positively or negatively affected. Further to that, nearly 20% of businesses had seen cashflow affected by between 20-50%.
- Many in the agriculture sector are concerned about the ongoing impact of COVID-19, at a time when they are already experiencing the impact of drought and bushfires.
In the last week we have had $1,800,000 in new sales cancelled as a result of the uncertainty on what Australia looks like in 3 months’ time. People are more panicked in agriculture than I anticipated.
Stories from our community are that we will lose many of our sole traders and small businesses. This will impact on the overall liveability and quality of life. It will also impact on government drought grant funding when it stipulates use of local suppliers.
We are still under massive financial strain from the last 2 years of drought. We have had to borrow additional finance to carry on. We have received rain which has meant we are spending significant money trying to get a crop in the ground and restock. If the livestock prices continue to fall due to lack of demand and the inability of processors to export our meat we will be in serious trouble.
The mental impact of COVID-19 and what the future holds
- In terms of the future and what it holds, this survey showed 37% of those who responded said they are very worried. This may be particularly pronounced in regions which have experienced other disasters in recent times.
It feels like we have hardly come up for a breath since the bushfires, which also bound us inside for months as the smoke was so bad each day we avoided going outside. I think our levels of anxiety seem to be at a constant level because of everything, restless nights, worry about finances, people’s health – this is affecting everyone.
I’m a sole trader who has built a successful consultancy business which is now in its sixth year. I don’t employ anyone. My cash flow is likely to be zero after June 30 of this year, in fact I am doubtful that this quarter of activity will be signed off on. I will have to shelve my business and go back to work in an employment scenario.
Impact on home life in regional Australia
- One of the themes that emerged in this survey was the adjustments many regional people were making to home life, particularly having to home-school children. This change has forced the uptake of new technology, such as online video platforms like Zoom and GoTo Meeting, to allow children to learn online.
- While many respondents reported that home-schooling had added to the pressure already imposed due to COVID-19, the move has also seen a positive by some respondents.
Home schooling teenagers is teaching them such valuable lessons in: time management; communicating with educators/adults in different ways; problem solving; different aspects of friendship; and that the life skills of their parents means they do know some stuff!
Teachers are using more innovative modes of delivery and really enjoying it
Trying to juggle a part time job working from home with children home learning and trying to diversify my business to cover day to day expenses has proven extremely difficult to manage.
What people are telling us about their internet
- With many thousands of children going online around the country to undertake their studies and workers trying to do their jobs online – we asked about internet speed in regions. Here are the results:
- 13% rated internet speed as excellent – download speed was very fast and connection is reliable most or all of the time.
- 48% rated internet speed as good – download speed is fast and connection is generally reliable.
- 26% rated internet speed as fair – download speed is fair and connection is sometimes unreliable.
- 13% rated internet speed as poor – download speed is slow and connection is very unreliable.
Internet is a huge thing to be able to not only do my job from home but also allow us to run our farming business online as much as possible.
Are businesses aware of the Federal and State Stimulus packages available?
- Overwhelmingly the answer is YES. 92% said they were aware of the variety of government assistance available. Information about eligibility relating to the Federal Government’s JobKeepers stimulus measure is being sought by many businesses.
- However, most had not accessed the stimulus support (83%), 30% of these because they deemed the support to be not applicable.
I have friends losing their jobs. They need money immediately, not in a month’s time. And with no strings attached. No hoops to jump through. No massive queues to line up in. It must be made easier.
Who responded to the survey?
- Nearly half of all respondents (48%) came from New South Wales. Queensland was next, with 24% and 12% for Victoria.
- 44% of people who responded were regional business owners.
- 66% of respondent were female.
- 45-54 years olds made up more than one third of survey respondents.
- Only 2 respondents were from a migrant background.
The final say…
We are lucky we have space. I would hate to be isolated without space, a garden or pets
N.B This survey includes a small sample of 77 people and a narrow demographic group. As such, results should be interpreted with caution and should not be generalised as representative of the experiences of all Regional Australians. Nonetheless, it does provide an interesting snapshot of our survey respondents who are mainly living in NSW and QLD working in agriculture or professional jobs.