Four-in-five self-employed workers worse off due to coronavirus

More than 80 per cent of self-employed Australian workers say their profits have plummeted as a result of coronavirus, a new study has shown.

A survey of more than 3100 people by the Australian National University found self-employed workers had lost more income than employees and had lost more work hours.

Almost one-third of self-employed workers surveyed said their businesses would not be economically viable in the next two months if the economic trends continue.

The number of businesses that wouldn't be feasible increased to 40 per cent if the economy stayed the same for the next six months.

The university's Centre for Social Research and Methods director, Professor Matthew Gray, said coronavirus had a larger negative impact on self-employed workers than employees of a business.

"Clearly, self-employed Australians are really feeling the heat when it comes to the economic impact of COVID-19," Professor Gray said.

"Our survey shows this is also causing significant distress and taking a toll on their mental health."

The survey found 21 per cent of self-employed workers reported their income had been reduced to its lowest point, with a further 21 per cent saying their drop in income had been substantial.

Meanwhile, 5 per cent said their profits had been eliminated completely.

On average, a self-employed work lost more than nine hours of worker per week, compared to three hours of lost work for employees.

The survey revealed those who were self-employed had lost $66 more than other employees.

Those who were self-employed were also three-times as likely to have accessed their retirement savings of superannuation early.


Professor Gray said the increased likelihood of self-employed workers drawing on their superannuation would be even more detrimental to finances in years to come.

"It's one thing to go through a tough time and tighten your belt, but to reduce retirement income, that has a long-term impact so that is quite significant," he said.

"In terms of accessing retirement savings and super, 21 per cent of self-employed said they did, compared to 7 per cent of employees and that's high."

The survey was based on data collected from the Australian National University's poll that was conducted in February and April, both before and after the start of coronavirus restrictions.

It's hoped future data will be able to provide greater detail of the effects of coronavirus across a range of industries.

Industries with greater proportion of self-employed workers include agriculture, construction, transport, real-estate services, administrative and support services along with arts and recreation.

Professor Gray said the impact of coronavirus on self-employed workers had been spread out across multiple industries.

"There's a real mix, but we found that self-employed workers are more adversely affected than the employees," he said.

"We need to think hard about how we can make sure these many hard-working Australians, who not only give a great deal to our economy but also our society and communities, can be looked after during this pandemic."

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More than 80 per cent of self-employed workers say they're worse off financially due to coronavirus restritions. Picture: Shutterstock

More than 80 per cent of self-employed workers say they're worse off financially due to coronavirus restritions. Picture: Shutterstock

This story Four-in-five self-employed workers worse off due to coronavirus first appeared on The Canberra Times.