COVID-19: Unemployment nearly doubled during lockdown - study

COVID-19: Unemployment nearly doubled during lockdown - study
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Unemployment nearly doubled during lockdown and many New Zealanders experienced lower wellbeing due to a loss of income during this time, a new study has found.

The study from the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families and Children (RMC) and Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) estimates the unemployment rate grew from 5.3 percent before lockdown to 10.3 percent by the third week of alert level 4.

Just over 2000 New Zealanders took part in the study, and researchers said many families lost out economically during lockdown - 44 percent of respondents were from a household where someone had experienced job or income loss.

Those who lost jobs or income over this period also reported experiencing feelings of anger, depression, stress and loneliness.

IGPS senior research fellow Dr Michael Fletcher says the economic effects of lockdown were "larger than some recent commentators suggest".

"A bit under half of New Zealand households we surveyed experienced an economic loss and there was a net job loss of about 130,000. That's a big negative jolt."

But overall, the ways families operated remained strong and there was little change in family and relationship functions, RMC director Dr Kate Prickett says.

"Fears lockdown would strain family relationships were not borne out generally. In terms of family functioning, families as a whole were incredibly robust. This suggests considerable family strength in New Zealand in a very uncertain and stressful time."

But some parents found lockdown challenging, with 52 percent of working mothers and 47 percent of working fathers reporting an increase in family demands.

Researchers said the increase in family demands was generally larger for mothers and the gender gap the widest among parents of young children. Working mothers with children aged up to four years old had a large increase in family demands - nearly twice as high as working fathers with young children.

More negative emotions were associated with the work-family conflict than positive ones, and the wellbeing gap was stronger with mothers. Larger work-family time pressures also saw an increase in partner conflict and a decrease in partner supportiveness, along with declines in parental role satisfaction. These changes were also stronger among mothers.

The full report will be made available on Friday.