The biannual report by The Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP) found that 1.8 million Australian workers are experiencing severe and moderate levels of financial stress, and half of all Aussie workers report some level of stress about their finances. Aussies both country and industry-wide have been significantly impacted by financial stress but the hospitality sector has been impacted more than others.
The report states:
In line with the impacts of COVID-19, the accommodation and hospitality industry is experiencing the highest levels of financial stress, with 26 per cent of workers severely or moderately stressed. Retail is the second most affected industry at 23 percent.
The AMP Director of Workplace Super, Ilaine Anderson said:
“As we wrap up the year, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on Australians workers, but for those in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors, the impact has been massive. Restrictions, lockdowns and a relatively abrupt end to international tourism, has meant that these industries in particular have born the brunt of the pandemic when it comes to job security and a drop in consumer spending. As a result, financial stress for Australians working in these sectors has dramatically increased and without adequate support, it’ll continue to be a trend for years to come.
“While controlling events like the pandemic is impossible, improving financial literacy can be one way to ensure that employees across sectors are prepared for these sorts of events. Furthermore, financial education programs can result in improved wellbeing for employees, a more present and engaged workforce as well as better performance for both businesses and the wider economy.”
The report says the cost to Australia’s economy is $30.9 billion annually due to employee distraction and absenteeism – those severely and moderately financially stressed are ineffective at work for approximately 7.7 hours a week, and absent for a further 1.2 hours a week through sick days.
It is a “systemic, long-term issue”. The research, which has been conducted by AMP biannually since 2014, shows that financial stress has remained a systemic issue in Australian society. Those severely or moderately financially stressed have remained above or close to two million in every year the research has been completed, and the divide between the financially well and those stressed is getting wider.
“Women continue to be more impacted”. Approximately one in five female employees reported severe or moderate levels of financial stress in 2020, almost double the figure recorded for male employees (11 per cent). Younger women are particularly at risk, with 23 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 reporting severe or moderate levels of financial stress in 2020, almost three times the number of male employees (8 per cent) in the equivalent age group.
“The impact of COVID-19”. COVID-19 is amplifying financial anxiety for the 42 per cent of employees who perceive their finances to have been negatively impacted by the pandemic through business and employment disruption. These Australians report almost three times the financial stress levels of those who believe they haven’t been directly impacted by COVID-19. One in ten Australians, whose employment or business have not been impacted or in-fact benefited through COVID-19, are reporting a positive impact on their financial stress levels.
AMP’s modelling projects that if the impact of COVID-19 sees the number of people stressed increase by 10 points to 52 per cent, the additional cost to Australia’s economy caused by that stress could be up to $4.4 billion.
Ilaine Anderson said: “Australians continue to suffer the debilitating effects of financial stress, which is taking a huge personal toll on mental and physical wellbeing, particularly for younger women and single parents.
“This is spilling into work with stressed employees worried and distracted, and not performing at the levels they’re capable of, or they don’t turn up at all. The combined effect is costing Australian businesses billions each year.
“While COVID-19 is understandably creating significantly more anxiety for those directly impacted and blurring work and home life, the research – conducted since 2014 – shows that financial stress remains a systemic issue in Australian society.
“We know those who feel in control of their money are measurably less stressed, happier and more productive in the workplace. We also know that well-defined personal and family goals, and a plan in place to achieve them, can provide comfort.
“But employees also require the knowledge and knowhow to achieve their goals. And while more employees today than in previous years claim to have good financial intentions, they still often lack the tools, support, information and opportunity to take action. Access to financial education is essential.
“The research shows that financial education is one of the most used employee benefits when available. In fact, employees place an average value of $1300 on financial education provided by employers.
“Yet only 10 per cent of employees report that they’re being offered this kind assistance by their employer.
“There is a very real opportunity for employers to offer more financial literacy and education programs to their people, and increase awareness if they already exist – to help them understand and engage with their finances, set goals, put plans in place, and then achieve their desired financial outcomes through informed decision making.
“The benefits will be seen through improved wellbeing, a more present and engaged workforce and, ultimately, in the performance of their businesses and wider economy.”
Seven tips to improve financial wellness
- Take action – utilise online resources and education programs provided by your employer to improve your understanding of key financial drivers, including superannuation, debt and cashflow management, insurance and investment principles.
- Set goals and put a plan in place to achieve them – connecting finances with goals helps us engage with our finances, and then having a plan to achieve these goals can significantly ease stress.
- Create a budget that works for you – writing up a budget may take an afternoon out of your diary, but it will help you to more easily identify where there’s room for improvement. Then use one of the many budgeting apps freely available to track progress.
- Consider rolling your debts into one – rolling multiple debts into a single loan can reduce fees and interest. It also provides greater visibility and control over your finances.
- Set aside some emergency cash – an emergency resource of funds could give you peace of mind and reduce the need to apply for high-interest borrowing options should you be faced with an unexpected expense or new circumstances.
- See if you can get a better deal with your providers – you more than likely have several product and service providers, and savings can be made by switching providers, which over time can amount to considerable benefits.
- Don’t be afraid to seek financial assistance – if you are struggling to make repayments, you may be able to seek assistance from your providers by claiming financial hardship. All providers must consider reasonable requests to change their terms in instances where you may be suffering genuine financial difficulties. In addition, you can talk to a financial counsellor (free of charge) at the National Debt Helpline by calling 1800 007 007.