One economist estimates that today’s one-off public holiday to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II will cost Australia’s economy close to $2 billion in lost productivity.
The impact on sole trader Norma Dann is a microcosm of this economic toll.
When the public holiday was announced 11 days ago, the self employed handywoman had to decide whether she’d stick to doing the jobs she had scheduled. Some had been booked by clients months ago.
“It’s just very difficult to juggle these things at such short notice,” Norma said.
While she has “mixed feelings” about the reason behind the public holiday, Norma ultimately decided to give herself and her sub-contractor Lauren the day off.
“It is a welcome (day off) because we’ve been very busy. However, it’s come at a cost,” she said.
“We’ve had to reschedule many clients, and these people have already been waiting. And then the next availability is three to four weeks away. So it’s just been a very tiresome juggle.
“I will enjoy the day off. But I won’t receive any income as a sole trader. And neither will Lauren for her sub-contracting business.
“It’ll be several $100 (lost each). It’s not a small amount, but it’s not huge compared to some of the major building works going on.”
Right across the country, other businesses from banks and shops through to construction companies have made the same decision as Norma’s business, Ms Fixet.
This is what led economist Stephen Koukoulas to come up with his headline figure of almost $2 billion in lost economic output.
“The loss represents the fact that businesses are actually closed,” he told ABC News.
“Things just don’t get done, that might have otherwise been done.
“For a lot of small business owners like electricians, carpenters, plumbers, they’re not going to be working as well. So that means that they’re going to be losing income for that particular day.
“Car repairs and all those sorts of issues are going to be postponed and create a bit of a backlog and a real headache for those people having to reorganise their affairs around that.
“It means also that a lot of services like healthcare, as we’ve heard about in the last week or two, will have to postpone things like surgery. And while it obviously all gets caught up at a later date, it’s very disruptive to the economy.”
Mr Koukoulas also factored in the cost to the economy when businesses do stay open, and therefore often have to pay their staff extra public holiday wages.
Many cafes, bars and restaurants are choosing to stay open today, while paying staff extra wages. Some will pass this cost onto the consumer in the form of a surcharge, which is now a common hospitality practice.
“And they’re probably not going to make much money if they do open,” Mr Koukoulas said.
“It’d be an absurd proposition to say that if we had public holidays, unexpectedly across the economy, that we’d have a booming economic activity.”
Industry groups including the Australian Industry Group have also noted that the public holiday comes at an especially tricky time as many businesses are gearing up for Christmas.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously described the decision to call a public holiday as one that “brings our nation together”.
“Tradition, I know, can sometimes be inconvenient,” he said last week.
But not everybody believes today is a net loss
While Mr Koukoulas believes the snap public holiday is a net loss for the economy, other economists have told ABC News that there will be some benefits to some sectors.
Today’s public holiday falls on a Thursday. Commonwealth Bank senior economist Gareth Aird believes many Australians will be taking tomorrow off too if they can and booking in a long weekend.
“So domestic tourism operators and related businesses could do very well,” Mr Aird said.
“Of course, there are costs too, but not all one way. You might find a lot of people go out for dinner on Wednesday night or to the pub with a holiday the following day.”
This net benefit has certainly been the case for Victorian caravan park operator Gary McPike.
“The phone ran pretty hot after the announcement for the public holiday,” Gary said.
“Any trader in a holiday or coastal town who deals in recreation activities would be the same.”
Gary is the chief operating officer for a state-appointed organisation Barwon Coast. It manages three caravan parks on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
In Victoria, tomorrow is already a public holiday for the AFL grand final. Gary found many of the people calling to book after the announcement of the memorial public holiday for Queen Elizabeth II were wanting to extend their stay to include today.
“Plus there were other people booking a fresh booking. We’re running pretty close to capacity in two of our three caravan parks,” he said.
Gary said it’s worth it to Barwon Coast to take these extra bookings, while paying staff public holiday wages. Barwon Coast operates like a not-for-profit with money going back into public facilities for the coastal region.
“There’s a real added cost as we pay staff extra, as they should be. We find the right mix,” Gary said.
“Lots of (other tourism operators) have a surcharge. We don’t do it. We work out our budget on a whole year.”
Gary believes public holidays are great for the tourism sector. He also agrees with Mr Aird’s assessment that lots of people in states without the Friday as a public holiday would probably be taking it off anyway.
“We get that in November with the first Tuesday of the month as a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup. People take the Monday off too. We’ll be solidly booked,” he said.