Nearly 90,000 hospitality employees have lost their jobs this week with another 200,000 more set to be laid off over the next three months.
The grim forecast was tweeted by Nine News political editor Chris Uhlmann, saying these were the figures reported to the government.
But Government Services Minister Stuart Robert was even more pessimistic, saying “maybe a million” people were left unemployed overnight following the shutdown.
The mass job losses stem from the nationwide shutdown to the public of restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and other venues.
The effect on Australia’s unemployment rate is too early to tell. In February the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent. But in Australia’s last recession in the 1990s it rose to a peak of 11.2 per cent.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) said the ban on licensed premises was an “unprecedented move in our peace-time history”.
“There’s no doubt this move is already having a devastating impact on our direct national workforce of 250,000 and our millions of patrons,” AHA chief executive Stephen Ferguson said.
An estimated 58,000 to 60,000 people are employed in South Austalia’s hospitality sector, not including the supply chains that support it.
Australian Hotels Association SA chief Ian Horne is urging the government to introduce direct wage subsidies for staff.
“Nobody could ever contemplate a set of circumstances where every single hotel in Australia was shut down on the same day,” Horne told The Advertiser.
Currently the government has increased Jobseeker support and is fast tracking new applicants for those that have been left jobless by the ban.
Adelaide City Council offered a $4m support package on Monday night, while Premier Steven Marshall is working on a second stimulus package to be launched within a week.
In WA, around 40,000 people including hospitality workers at restaurants, cafes and pubs have been left without a job as of yesterday.
Speaking on the 6PR Morning Show, Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said it was “a terrible day for the industry”.
Woods said the Federal Government had turned the offer down by industry to pay staff welfare payments through the businesses they worked for. The government has opted to rely on Centrelink has the best option to support people in need.
“I cannot see how 900,000 people who are losing their jobs across the country today in the tourism and hospitality sector are going to get serviced by a very small public service,” Woods said.
“I’m really fearful that there are people out there who are going to find this all too hard.”