One economist estimates today’s one-off holiday to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II will cost Australia’s economy nearly $2 billion in lost productivity.
Sole proprietor Norma Dann is a microcosm of this economic toll.
When the holiday was declared 11 days ago, the self-employed craftswoman was faced with the decision of whether to stick to the planned work. Some had been booked by customers months before.
“It’s just very difficult to juggle these things on such short notice,” Norma said.
While she has “mixed feelings” about the reason for the holiday, Norma ultimately decided to give herself and her contractor Lauren the day off.
“It’s a welcome (day off) because we’ve been very busy. However, it comes at a price,” she said.
“We had to reschedule a lot of customers and these people have been waiting. And then the next availability is three to four weeks away. So it was just a very tedious juggling.
“I’ll enjoy the day off. But I will not earn any income as a sole proprietor. And neither does Lauren for her subcontracting business.
“It will cost several hundred dollars (each lost).
Across the country, other companies, from banks and shops to construction companies, have made the same decision as Norma’s company, Ms Fixet.
This prompted economist Stephen Koukoulas to headline nearly $2 billion in lost economic output.
“The loss represents the fact that stores are actually closed,” he told ABC News.
“Things just don’t get done that might otherwise have gotten done.
“They won’t work as well for many small business owners like electricians, carpenters and plumbers. So that means they will lose income on that particular day.
“Car repairs and all these types of problems are being postponed and causing some backlog and real headaches for people who have to reorganize their affairs around it.
“It also means that a lot of services like healthcare, as we’ve heard over the last week or two, have to postpone things like surgeries. And although obviously everything will be made up for at a later date, it is very disruptive for the economy.”
Mr Koukoulas also considered the cost to the economy of keeping businesses open and therefore often having to pay extra holiday wages to their employees.
Many cafes, bars and restaurants are choosing to stay open today while paying extra wages to employees. Some pass this cost on to the consumer in the form of a surcharge, which is now common practice in the hospitality industry.
“And they probably won’t make much money when they open,” Mr Koukoulas said.
“It would be an absurd claim to say that we have booming economic activity when we unexpectedly have an economy-wide holiday.”
Industry groups, including the Australian Industry Group, have also noted that the holiday comes at a particularly difficult time as many businesses prepare for Christmas.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously described the decision to declare a public holiday as one that “brings our nation together”.
“Tradition, I know, can be uncomfortable at times,” he said last week.
But not everyone believes in a net loss today
While Mr Koukoulas believes the short holiday is a net loss for the economy, other economists have told ABC News some sectors will see some benefits.
Today’s holiday falls on a Thursday. Commonwealth Bank chief economist Gareth Aird believes many Australians will also take tomorrow off if they can and book a long weekend.
“So domestic tourism providers and related businesses could do very well,” Aird said.
“Of course there are also costs, but not just in one direction. You may find that many people go out to dinner on a Wednesday night or to the pub the next day on a bank holiday.”
This net benefit was certainly the case for Victorian caravan park operator Gary McPike.
“The phone ran pretty hot after the holiday announcement,” Gary said.
“Any trader in a holiday or seaside town dealing in leisure activities would be the same.”
Gary is Chief Operating Officer of a government appointed organization Barwon Coast. It manages three trailer parks on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
In Victoria, tomorrow is already a public holiday for the AFL Grand Final. Gary noted that many of the people who called to book after the announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s public holiday wanted to extend their stay to today.
“Also, other people have booked a new booking. We’re pretty busy at two of our three trailer parks,” he said.
Gary said it is worthwhile for Barwon Coast to take on these extra bookings while also paying staff holiday wages. Barwon Coast operates as a non-profit organization with money going back to coastal community charities.
“There are real additional costs because we pay the staff extra, as it should be. We find the right mix,” said Gary.
“Many (other tourism providers) have a surcharge. We don’t do that. We work out our budget for a whole year.”
Gary believes holidays are great for the tourism sector. He also agrees with Mr Aird’s assessment that many people in states without Friday as a holiday would probably take it off anyway.
“That’s what we get in November with the first Tuesday of the month being a Melbourne Cup holiday. People also take Monday off. We’ll be fully booked,” he said.