Coronavirus’ full economic impact is yet to be seen but workers are already preparing themselves for possible quarantine measures.
Australians are madly stocking up on supplies in case the disease forces them into a two week isolation.
Meanwhile government and businesses are trying to find the best ways to support affected employees in case it’s no longer safe or viable for them to work.
Not all jobs have the same exposure to coronavirus however, and workers in some industries are more susceptible to its economic impacts than others.
James Caldwell, senior industry analyst with IBISWorld, told The New Daily which five industries face the greatest risks.
Number 1: Airlines
Demand for flights has plummeted since coronavirus first started infecting tourists, and government travel restrictions have further weighed on that.
Qantas has already scaled back its number of flights, forcing 2000 surplus workers to take paid leave if they want to receive an income in the intervening time.
Fortunately for employees in this industry, Mr Caldwell said, there are several factors which could protect their jobs in the long run.
“Staff in this industry are highly unionised and they have a lot of benefits,” he said.
“They don’t have a lot of casual workers, plus, when this virus ends these workers are going to be needed and it’s very expensive to hire in this industry.”
These features mean airline staff are less likely to lose their jobs if the pandemic becomes a prolonged issue.
Number 2: Freight and transport
“Australia is a trading nation, and China is Australia’s biggest trading partner,” Mr Caldwell said.
That’s a big problem for the people moving goods between the two nations as the disease has caused many Chinese factories to close.
With few goods in need of transportation, demand for drivers has fallen.
Luckily, a recent fall in oil prices means freight businesses will have a little extra money to hand, reducing the likelihood of lay-offs.
Australian imports from China (2017)
Number 3: Retail
“This outbreak has had a big impact on consumer confidence and there’s a lot of talk about a recession,” Mr Caldwell said.
“If we enter a recession, people are going to cut back on discretionary spending and that can really only harm the retail industry.”
Worryingly, many workers in the retail sector are employed on a casual basis and have no access to paid sick leave.
Mr Caldwell added that casual workers can also be “dispatched at the drop of a hat”.
“We’d see job layoffs there,” he said.
Number 4: Hotels
The summer bushfires took an axe to the tourism sector, and now coronavirus threatens to pour salt in those still-fresh wounds.
“With the bushfires this year, Australian tourism has already contracted and now there are travel bans in place on a list of countries,” Mr Caldwell said.
“If these travel bans are extended further, we’ll probably see the closure of hotels or at least job layoffs.”
Many hotel staff are also employed on a casual basis, and face similar challenges to retail workers.
Number 5: Restaurants
Eating out might be a nice way to spend an evening, but it’s an expense Australians are expected to cut back on as talk of a recession builds.
As consumers tighten their belts staff employed in the restaurant world will feel the squeeze, Mr Caldwell said.
Like retail and hotel workers, many of the hard-working Australians employed by these businesses are casual staff.
Fossil fuel power generation a winner
Australians employed in fossil fuel power generation will become essential to the economy during the outbreak.
That’s because China’s factory shutdown has reduced the damend for coal, forcing the commodity’s price down.
As a result, coal-fired power plants have been given a competitive cost advantage over renewable energy production, which until recently was cheaper than coal.
Ensuring an uninterrupted power supply will be essential for the increasing number of people electing to work from home or forced to self isolate.
How to prepare financially
Workers who have contracted coronavirus, or who suspect the may have been infected, need to isolate themselves for two weeks.
For full-time and part-time workers, this typically means eating up two weeks of paid sick leave.
Workers employed on a casual or short-term contract basis face the daunting prospect of losing two weeks of income (leaving many unable to cover their basic expenses.
In either case, having money tucked away would be immensely helpful – yet the 2019 Financial Consciousness Index Report by Deloitte found only 32 per cent of households have emergency funds set aside.
- Read more: How to create a savings plan
The remainder of the population will need to start saving now if they want to build their own emergency cash cache, and the best way to do that is by tracking their spending.
MoneySmart, ASIC’s financial literacy unit, recommends Australians work out what they spend their money on and look for expenses they can cut down on.
“For example, cancel an unused gym membership or make your lunch instead of buying it,” the organisation said.
The next step is to set a savings goal and compile a budget. MoneySmart has a free budget planning tool to speed this process up.
Not everyone has the additional income required to save money for an emergency.