People from diverse cultural backgrounds in Australia requested more loans during COVID-19 pandemic
Paw Eh arrived in Australia 14 years ago, leaving Myanmar as a refugee.
When her husband lost his job during the COVID-19 lockdown, she wasn’t sure how they were going to make ends meet.
“I have a little baby, so I can’t work,” she told SBS News.
“So we didn’t have enough money to pay the rent.”
She said the family had been able to access JobKeeper’s payments, but still had to dip into their savings.
“My husband pulled out his super – it was $ 10,000,” she says.
Her family is not alone in their financial difficulties.
The Consumer Policy Research Center surveyed more than two thousand people across Australia as they emerged from lockdown in November and December.
The Center’s report released this week found that people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALDs) have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
CALD consumers have had access to twice as many personal loans and four times as many high-cost payday loans.
They were also twice as likely to access their retirement pensions early, and requested emergency assistance at rates four times higher than the rest of the population.
“What really concerns us is that this group is accessing higher risk, higher cost credit products at much higher rates than the rest of the population,” said Lauren Solomon, Managing Director of Consumer Policy Research Center.
“These are things like payday loans, consumer leases and buy now-pay later.” Do you want to get a payday loan today? Get it now!
In November alone, 22% of CALD renters missed a payment, compared to 6% of the general population.
The result was high levels of financial stress, with 73% of CALD consumers still concerned about their financial well-being, compared to 56% of their population.
Migration Council of Australia chief executive Carla Wilshire said these problems have been exacerbated by the fact that many non-English speakers have missed information regarding payment plans and other financial aids.
“Having English as a second language only creates an additional barrier to being able to access adequate financial advice,” she said.
“One of the outcomes of COVID is that more attention needs to be paid to support mechanisms for migrants and refugees upon arrival.”
International students and people on working holiday visas also experienced greater financial hardship during the pandemic, with their visa status putting government support payments out of reach.
They were also more likely to depend on casual labor, which resulted in higher levels of income instability.
Researchers request that financial information be available in multiple languages.
“If we are to get back together from this crisis, our customer service must be inclusive and that means it must be accessible to the entire population, because that is what will make our community and our society stronger.” Ms. Solomon said.