This week, we've had the national media focused on the unemployment rates and what it will mean for the economy. The JobKeeper payments to businesses have most definitely softened job losses and impact on the economy, guaranteeing a continued cash flow of wages until September 27, 2020. But what happens after that?
Last week, we reported that in our research, we estimated that 11,000 people in the Orana region were having their employment impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two industries hardest hit by restrictions are arts and recreation and food and accommodation services, with both reporting that more than 70 per cent of their employees were impacted. More than 50 per cent of these businesses were already doing it tough due to drought and bushfire.
In the Orana region, the arts and recreation sector is relatively tiny - it employs less than 600 people and has an output of just $89M. By comparison, the food and accommodation sector employs 3555 people and has an output of $570M. Both sectors pay relatively low wages - the average salary of art and recreation sector employees is $35,000 per annum, while the average salary of a food and accommodation sector employee is $42,000. In the short term, the JobKeeper payments will neutralise these job impacts.
The retail sector has also been affected, reporting job impacts of 43 per cent. The industry typically employs 5000 people in the region and generates $590M in total sales.
For arts and recreation and the retail sectors, the bulk of their sales come from the local community. Both sectors are vital to livability. As we head into recovery, RDA Orana predicts that these industries will begin to recover well, on the premise that business owners implement proper WHS and risk plans and provide excellent customer service that results in local loyalty.
In the accommodation and food sector, 25 per cent of income is obtained by exports - that is, goods and services sold to consumers, businesses, and governments based outside the region's boundaries. In the Orana region, the bulk of the value of this export is from the business market, though leisure tourism has been crucial to the area as well.
While the 3 step framework for a COVID safe Australia provides a guide for how we can expect to return to a 'new normal', full recovery for the food and accommodation sector will lag. Step 3 restrictions dictate space requirements for social distancing and maximum event numbers of 100. To some degree, within the sector, there will need to be a shift - to larger floor spaces and reduced reliance on the event market. There is a tremendous opportunity to also refocus the sector on domestic leisure visitors.
Australians usually take more than nine million trips abroad each year and spend more than $60 billion on international travel. With indefinite restrictions on overseas travel, this presents a significant opportunity for our region. We have historically attracted a robust regional market with less dependency on international visitation. We have strengths in the domestic market which we can use strategically and apply a targeted marketing approach. As social distancing restrictions begin to lift and geographic boundaries reopen, to assist the industry in bouncing back faster, our most significant advantage will be our location.
RDA Orana is a not for profit business that receives federal funding to support regional and economic development initiatives across the Orana region. Our mission is to support sustainable economic growth through the provision of regional intelligence that creates connections and collaborations, supports investment decisions by business and government, and that encourages the development of our workforce. To find out more, visit rdaorana.org.au
Regional Recovery with RDA Orana is a series of columns produced by RDA Orana looking at the impacts of COVID-19 and the road to recovery for our community.
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