Threats to personal safety at work, managing mental health and the ongoing nature of the pandemic are causing essential workers a great deal of concern, according to research commissioned by new Australian digital-only, member-owned bank, Hiver.
Nearly one fifth of essential workers in education, emergency services and healthcare have considered changing their job because of the pandemic, a figure that has increased by 5 per cent since May, to 19 per cent.
This growing number represents around 760,000 essential workers across Australia who could leave their front line profession.
The research sought to quantify the stories being told on-the-ground by essential workers, including nurses, teachers, paramedics and police.
Concerningly, Hiver’s research found that during the pandemic the majority of essential workers have experienced threats to their personal safety at work (58 per cent) and are reporting greater difficulty looking after their own mental health as the pandemic continues (65 per cent).
Most essential workers are finding it harder to cope with the pandemic in 2021 compared to last year (62 per cent).
In Victoria and New South Wales, where stricter and lengthier lockdowns have been implemented because of Delta variant outbreaks, almost 80 per cent of essential workers reported that they have found it harder to fulfil their roles on the front line this year, in comparison to 2020.
This is a significantly different experience to essential workers in other states, where only around 38 per cent found their jobs harder to fulfil in 2021.
“We know the responsibilities that essential workers are taking on are more intense than ever because of the pandemic,” Carolyn Murphy, Chief Digital Bank Officer of Hiver, said.
“The people who face-up to the very personal impacts of COVID-19 on a daily basis are telling us they are nearing breaking point.
“As the pandemic goes on, if we are expecting to continue our reliance on essential workers, we need to look carefully at how we can provide meaningful support in their lives.
“We are concerned to see that nearly half (41 per cent) of essential workers aged 18-34 are finding it difficult to get affordable housing close to their work, which we believe could assist in reducing stress and improving the mental wellbeing of many of our front line workers.”
The report captured the responses of more than 1000 essential workers nationwide, representative of the geographic and professional breakdown of people working in healthcare, education and emergency services.
The survey was conducted from September 12 to 17 and results have been tracked against an identical survey in May (also over 1000 essential services workers), highlighting the shift in opinion of essential workers during the height of lockdowns.