Coronavirus has done to Australia what even the global financial crisis couldn’t: abruptly end a record growth run and help trigger a deep recession from which the country will take time to recover.
While Australia has had great success so far in heading off the pandemic, with just over 100 deaths, the cure of shutting out the rest of the world means massive hits to three key growth drivers — tourism, education and immigration.
Fiona Gulin was 18 when the last recession hit Australia in the early 1990s. Back then, she managed to keep a part-time job at a music publication, before moving on to full-time work and a lucrative career in the entertainment industry.
This time, she hasn’t been so lucky.
“I have been hit hard in this recession,” said Gulin, who was laid off in April as the marketing director of the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, prompting her to ditch her rented house in the city and move back to her home in Melbourne.
Gulin is among the hundreds of thousands who have lost their livelihoods overnight to the COVID-19 pandemic as Australia suffers its first recession in 30 years and its unemployment rate hits a 19-year high of 7.1 per cent.
Even though Australia’s economy was among the first to reopen after lockdowns worldwide and earlier than the government expected, it contracted 0.3 per cent in the first quarter and a new wave of coronavirus cases could put a recovery at risk.
Women have been particularly hard hit.
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The unemployment rate for females looking for full-time work surged to 8.3 per cent in May from 5.4 per cent in February before coronavirus-driven shutdowns kicked in. That compares with 7 per cent for men from 4.8 per cent in February.
“Australia is known as the lucky country but I am not very lucky at the moment,” Gulin, who is receiving government welfare payments, told Reuters.
“I have been talking to a few people about some opportunities but nothing has come up yet.”