WA’s differences prove as key strengths to minimising COVID-19 impact

A national comparative COVID-19 impact report reveals Western Australia’s often critised differences, such as mining and governance, have been key to cushioning the economic impacts caused by the pandemic.

According to Committee for Perth’s latest FACTBase Bulletin 75, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 have been less significant in WA than those experienced in other states, notably Victoria. WA’s mining sector and border closure strategy were identified as the key drivers to suppressing the impact of COVID-19.

However, while the pandemic didn’t impact WA as severely as it did other states, the impacts that were felt were predominantly by low-educated workers and people employed by small businesses.

Committee for Perth CEO, Marion Fulker, highlights the importance of supporting these two sectors through accessible initiatives.

“The research tells us that job losses post March 2020 have been highest for workers in Western Australia with low levels of education attainment. As a vulnerable demographic, low-educated workers need the support of industry and government to upskill and reskill. By providing accessible pathways to education and development, we can avoid widening the socioeconomic gap further,” Mrs Fulker said.

FACTBase 75 revealed that in WA employees of small and medium sized businesses have been nearly five times more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic, higher than the Australia-wide average of a three-time likelihood.

Mrs Fulker said that this finding shouldn’t deter employees from seeking work with small and medium sized businesses, with the research also revealing that due to their size SMBs were more adaptable in response to the pandemic.

Additional findings from the Bulletin include:

  • In its peak, the pandemic drove the WA unemployment rate to 8.7% in June 2020, higher than the Australia-wide peak of 7.5%. However, WA recovered rapidly in comparison to other Australian states and territories to a low of 4.8% recorded in March 2021.
  • Recorded changes in total wages have been higher in WA, with a -6.3% change in comparison to the national average of -5.2%.
  • An analysis by gender reveals the changes in wages predominantly impacted males in WA (-4.6%) as opposed to females (0.6%).
  • The media and telecommunications industry felt the heaviest impact WA due to COVID-19, shrinking 30% in the year to February 2021. This was followed by public administration (-21%) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (-18%).
  • Sectors that grew in WA in the year to February 2021 were the electricity, gas, water and waste sector (80%), healthcare and social assistance (20%) and manufacturing (16%).

The Bulletin marks the 75th FACTBase Bulletin developed by Committee for Perth in conjunction with the University of Western Australia. Prof. Amit Chakma, Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, recognised the important milestone.

“The FACTBase research program is crucial to measuring Perth’s liveability and connectedness. Collectively with the Committee for Perth, findings from the FACTBase program are supporting the growth of Perth’s competitiveness on a global scale by providing evidence-based insights on our city’s economic, social, demographic and political character,” Vice Chancellor Chakma said.

FACTBase Bulletin 75, forms part of Committee for Perth’s Future of Work project — a two-year initiative that aims to equip WA and its people for the changing world of work.