Long Covid costs Australia millions of working days

SYDNEY – Long Covid has already cost the Australian economy three million working days this year, according to a government analysis seen by AFP Friday, significantly worsening the country’s acute labour shortages.

The treasury report found that lingering effects of the coronavirus have been keeping some 31,000 Australians away from work every day.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Friday that Australia’s “labour market has been absolutely smashed by Covid and Long Covid increasingly”.

“The thousands of workdays the economy is losing to Long Covid is just one part of a complex picture, and gives a sense of what we are all up against,” he said.

The treasury analysis defined Long Covid as someone experiencing symptoms four weeks or more after becoming infected.

This mirrors how Long Covid is characterised by the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), which lists a wide variety of respiratory, heart, digestive and even neurological symptoms.

These include fatigue, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, stomach pain and difficulty concentrating — known as “brain fog”.

A comprehensive study published in the Lancet this month found that one in eight people who get Covid develop at least one Long Covid symptom.

The findings of the Australian treasury analysis were in line with this study — with 12% of Covid-related absenteeism attributed to Long Covid.

Australia is facing serious labour market constraints after its borders were closed to international arrivals for nearly two years during the pandemic.

The nation is experiencing the second-worst labour market shortage of any developed country, trailing only Canada, according to the OECD.

This and other issues — including years of stagnant wage growth — will be the subject of a “jobs summit” the new Labor government plans to hold next week.

Chalmers said challenges with skills shortages, wages and flatlining productivity would all be “front and centre at the summit”. – AFP