A new map of Australian suburbs is exposing the regions most at risk of economic and social disadvantage due to COVID-19 job losses, with more than 100 locations emerging as new areas of disadvantage.
The third iteration of the Employment Vulnerability Index (EVI) was created by researchers at the University of Newcastle and Griffith University using census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Building on previous EVI data and insights on the jobs most affected by an economic downturn, Professor Scott Baum from Griffith and Professor Bill Mitchell from Newcastle modelled COVID-19’s effect on more than 80 percent of Australians.
EVI 3.0 shows two groups are at risk of job losses: historically disadvantaged areas and an emerging group that have not historically suffered disadvantage, but are likely to experience social and economic pain as a result of the pandemic.
In total, 108 locations across Australia were identified as areas of emerging disadvantage, adding to the list of 97 locations with existing disadvantage, Mitchell said.
“Regional areas will be hit hard.
“Of the 108 areas of emerging disadvantage, 69 fall in non-metropolitan regions compared to 39 in metropolitan areas.”
Baum added that the two different groups - emerging and historical - will raise drastically different issues for policymakers.
“For the group we call ‘existing disadvantage job loss suburbs’, further labour market disadvantage will cement the social and economic malaise experienced by these communities and widen the gap with the rest of the nation,” Baum said.
However, emerging areas of disadvantage will likely see a different mix of workers being able to transition with changes to the economy, while others may not be so lucky.
“The challenges may include household and community burdens associated with increasing localised financial hardship or increases in a range of social problems seen in places that have been disadvantaged over a longer term.
“How deep and long these potential impacts will be is a matter of wait and see.”
The map also highlights which regions may be impacted if government support like the JobKeeper and elevated JobSeeker payments are wound back too quickly.
“There is a real danger that the government will retract its support mechanisms too soon. This is something we have seen before,” Mitchell said.
The map shows, for instance, that regions like the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are facing some of the most widespread downturns due to the closure of tourist hotspots and curbs on international travel.
“Ultimately how these suburbs and localities fare will depend on the impact of the Federal Government’s economic rescue package and the depth of the economic downturn.
“Outcomes may not be as bad as some have predicted.”