A big question in the year ahead will be what happens to unemployment as COVID vaccines begin to take effect on the pandemic, University of Newcastle Professor Francesco Paolucci says.
"We have an economy with very low interest rates, which has driven the boom in the real estate sector," said Professor Paolucci, a health economics and policy researcher who has closely studied the pandemic.
But this "hides the issue" of the "unemployment side of the equation".
"Unemployment is expected to grow."
This problem would "go hand-in-hand" with changes the federal government intends to make to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said on Monday that the JobKeeper program must end this month to protect future generations from excessive debt.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he was "days away" from revealing targeted support for when JobKeeper ends.
"We've got other programs continuing to roll out with support. But we're also looking at other measures," Mr Frydenburg said.
Professor Paolucci said these changes will be evaluated "for the impact on actual job seekers and jobs in general".
"Tourism and education are clearly sectors that have high numbers of employees that have been hit hard and will continue to be hit hard until the vaccines are rolled out."
He added that questions remained over whether the vaccines would be enough "for us to confidently open the borders because of the new virus strains".
Australians had generally supported the federal government's border strategy during the pandemic "because it protected us".
"However, there's been some inconsistency in the application of that rule."
He said the exception made for the Australian Open put "citizenship in second place, compared to tennis players and status".
"That is a serious hypocrisy in a democracy like the Australian one. That would require at the very least some profound explanation.
"We all love tennis - I play myself. However, there are Australians and students abroad."
He said other industries should have been given the same opportunity to bring people in from overseas, if they paid for quarantine.
"This is the discussion that needs to occur because there are jobs on the line," he said.
"This isn't a political statement, it's really an economist's perspective."
Students brought "not only money but other things to our communities".
"They participate in the labour market and help industries locally."
The Australian experience of the pandemic had shown that "middle measures or half measures don't work, generally speaking", Professor Paolucci said.
"This includes the different experiences of the states and the failures in Victoria.
"The stricter the state, the stronger the outcomes and the ability to bounce back from the initial economic downturn." He said other countries across the world, which "endured traffic light systems or flexible dynamic strategies in the absence of a vaccine have clearly suffered more cases, deaths and economic stress".
He said the federal government controlled the borders, but "COVID has been managed at the state level mostly".
"Strong and quick measures worked well, but the quality of the measures is what really made the difference here."
He said NSW stood out with "less invasive but well organised policies with contact tracing that meant we didn't have to go to excessive or extreme lockdowns with very low case numbers", like Queensland and Western Australia.
He believed the NSW system had more confidence that, even if contact tracing hadn't worked in certain situations, "the healthcare system would be able to cope".
Questions remained about how stricter measures affected so-called "collaterals" across Australia.
This related to how chronic conditions, mental health and other problems such as domestic violence and alcoholism were affected.
"On this, I think the judge is still out. These collaterals are clearly there and they are significant."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.