A storm rolled through social media on Sunday night following an interview with Gerry Harvey on Network Nine’s 60 Minutes. The controversy stems from comments Harvey made insinuating that the changing stability of Australian life is in fact an “opportunity” for some industries, including his multi-million-dollar company Harvey Norman.
While our economy is facing one of its greatest challenges in recent history, and we are on the brink of an impending recession- there is no denying that there are some industries which are profiting from the nations downfall. The question is, will these booming industries lead to job opportunities for the tens of thousands of workers that lost their jobs over the past week, or will these companies leave the rest of the nation behind?
We’ll start with Harvey Norman, because Gerry Harvey kicked off the debate on Sunday night, boasting,
“Our sales are up … by nine per cent on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 percent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 percent.”
It’s true. If you go to your local Harvey Norman store you would be hard pressed to find a freezer. Purchasing them online is tough too, with the majority of their vertical and chest freezers now out of stock. The insane levels of panic buying that we have experienced for weeks means that people now need somewhere to store their 30 packs of sausages, mince meat, long-life milk, bread… you get the point.
As to whether Harvey Norman are transferring this new revenue into new jobs, a quick look at their jobs website suggests they are, Though not in the abundance job seekers may have hoped for.
Public Service Announcement: Woolworths and Coles are hiring at the moment. They are seeing a huge demand for supplies that they just cannot meet. Coles are taking applications online and Woolworths are encouraging people to drop their resumes into their service desks. I know this because I applied for a job at my local Woolworths this morning.
I arrived half an hour after it opened and already many of the aisles were wiped clean of stock. My household is on its last roll of toilet paper, a scary concept with four adults- so I thought I’d be a hero and risk contagion by venturing into the crowded store. I needn’t have bothered. It’s a toilet paper reckoning out there. Long-life groceries aren’t much better.
seeing people fight like this over toilet paper makes me sad for humanitypic.twitter.com/iFnAXPe0gn
— LilMoonLambo (@LilMoonLambo) March 17, 2020
The struggle flows over into short shelf-life supplies as well. Last night I walked to three different grocery chains looking for mince meat for my dinner. When I finally found some, there was only one option; organic, grass fed, premium. As you can imagine it was quite expensive.
Grocery stores are seeing such an influx in customers that they’re now implementing strategies to control crowds. Elderly and disabled customers are being granted early access to the stores an hour before the general public, security guards are stationed at the entrances, and product quantity restrictions are being diligently enforced- that’s right Karen, only one pack of toilet paper for you!
Face Masks and Pharmacies
While there are not yet figures on the increased demand for face masks in Australia, this is clearly an industry which has experienced a significant rise in revenue over the past few months. The demand for face masks began before the world really knew what the coronavirus was, at a time where Australia was hurting from a different pain; the catastrophic bushfire season. Pharmacies and hardware stores sold out and were only able to restock when floods brought relief to the air quality. They are now once again in high demand, along with hand sanitiser, as people attempt to create a protective barrier between Covid-19 and themselves.
As pharmacies are again selling out of face masks across Australia, some household names are being criticised for price gouging. Priceline Pharmacy came under fire last week after it was revealed that they had been selling hand sanitisers and face masks for a much higher rate than usual. In response to the criticism, Priceline stated that these price increases were in fact because of the suppliers, and that the hand sanitiser in question was hospital grade and therefore more expensive.
— L Ron Husband (@mattDCLXVI) March 17, 2020
Similarly, there have been reports of packs of face masks selling for hundreds of dollars.
As for whether this will lead to an increase in jobs, only time will tell. Pharmacies stay open even in the event of a lockdown, but with strict social distancing rules in place, they may not need new staff as the queue of customers will likely be staggered. As for mask manufacturing, stay tuned. The liberal government has already put out a call to local manufacturers to help meet the demand, and I predict this industry will only continue to expand in these uncertain times.
If you have been on Tik Tok for awhile, you will have noticed that the quality of content has gotten so good since the world has collectively gone into self-isolation. Yes, there is a lot of content on the ‘rona [coronavirus], but there is also a large amount of funny, entertaining videos about other things. In a time when news outlets and most social media is dominated by disaster stories, its a refreshing change.
Tik Tok has always been a money making opportunity for it’s users, but with the world moving more towards internet based interactions- Tik Tok is becoming a much more viable tool to generate income. The best way to gain money as a content creator is to build a brand and gain sponsorship. So get creative!
While the comments Gerry Harvey made may have been seemed out of touch and insensitive, they were important because they highlighted the divide between Australians and industry sectors at the moment. As a student who pays rent, I can’t afford to panic buy supplies, much less a freezer to fit them in. The extra electricity costs alone are enough to give me anxiety. I live pay check to pay check, and the little savings I have managed to accrue will now go towards my rent as I look for new employment opportunities. Judging by the lines in front of Centrelink the day after Harvey’s interview aired, I’m not alone.
So I hope that Harvey is right, and that the Coronavirus is an opportunity- but I hope it reveals itself as an opportunity to all Australians. At the moment it is devastating our economy and changing the world as we know it.
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