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Scary days ahead: These are the safest jobs during a recession

Australian employee stands outside of Sydney train. Image: Getty
Image: Getty

The ASX shed $50 billion in minutes on Thursday off the back of a massive Wall Street sell-off, triggering fears of a recession.

This came just days after the ASX was sent into free fall on 6 August.

Now, as one of the most significant recession indicators - an inverted yield curve - begins flashing red, it appears volatility is back, and it’s here to stay.

“Some occupations are more sensitive than others to changes in economic conditions,” Indeed economist, Callam Pickering told Yahoo Finance.

Analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics jobs data during the last three economic downturns (1996-97; 2008-09 and 2013), and the 1990s recession found that of the 220 jobs analysed, only 9 per cent experienced employment growth during each downturn.

Another 22 per cent of jobs saw growth in three of the four periods examined. And, 37 per cent of roles only grew in two of the four downturns.

“Among the occupations that consistently performed well during difficult economic times there were some distinct trends,” Pickering said.

“One clear trend that relates to healthcare, education, aged-care services and welfare, is that industries that are funded primarily by the state and federal government are more resilient to a recession / downturn than private enterprise.”

Okay, so which industries are safest?


Healthcare services are required during good times and bad. Australians may delay some services but mostly you don’t choose when to utilise healthcare services.

“Registered nurses, physiotherapists, medical imaging professionals, medical technicians and pharmacists all tend to defy recessions and downturns,” Pickering said.

The same goes for mental health professionals like psychologists who tend to be in high demand when the economy takes a downturn.

“Perhaps they are in demand because the economy is weak - since high unemployment and increased stress are often associated with a bad economy.”

Aged and disability care

As with healthcare, not many people get to choose when they require care.

“This is an industry where demographics are more important than economic conditions.

“Employment for aged care and disability carers tends to rise even when the economy struggles.”


It doesn’t matter if the economy is in free fall - kids still need to go to school. And it’s not just school, jobs in childcare also increase as parents and caregivers look to take on more hours or another job to increase their income.

“Employment also tends to rise for private tutors, and primary and secondary teachers when the economy is bad.”


As unemployment rises, more demand will be placed on the Australian welfare system.

“Demand for social welfare workers remains high in a weak economy. So too is demand for counsellors,” Pickering said.


If Australians have less money to spend, they’re going to take a lot more convincing to buy something.

That’s why jobs in marketing grow, with advertising professionals and managers and call centre and telemarketer jobs all increasing.


“Demand for sport coaches, instructors and officials rise during downturns. So too does demand for fitness instructors. And it isn’t always health-related - employment for bar attendants and baristas also tends to grow,” he said.


People still want to have fun, often more so during gloomy financial times. That could be a movie, a drink or competitive sport.


Unlike many other sectors, there’s no demographic reason for the surge in tech roles during recessions.

“Software and applications programmers, database and system administrators, ICT business and systems analysts and computer network professionals have all experienced strong demand during downturns or recessions.

“The resilience of the tech sector to economic conditions may reflect structural factors. Many of these occupations are emerging, or have emerged over the past two decades, which may allow them to weather the storm to a greater degree than more established or mature professions.”

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