Highlights from the 10th edition of AustraliaNOW include:
- Significantly different to previous weeks that have been characterised by stress, anxiety and an overarching sense of isolation, we have now entered a broadly positive post-lockdown mindset even though for many, a return to the workplace is still not a reality and sense that the crisis is far from over.
- Still buoyed by the government stimulus package, our personal finance concerns are not as pronounced as our overall concern for the economy, and in a truly human paradoxical way households are as confident now as they have been over the past five years about their near term financial future.
- Those who are feeling most concerned financially are people with investments, be that property or stocks, and are most likely to be the ones pushing for the easing of restrictions to get the economy moving again.
- But probably most significantly is that more than half of us say that a lasting impact of COVID-19 will be the intention to spend less money as a combination of economic uncertainty, income insecurity and a genuine re-evaluation of what is most important will likely impede consumer spending in the coming weeks and months ahead, especially the employed and financially secure, reinforcing the cuts will be to discretionary spend.
- The above highlights do point to the public’s continued practice of optimism bias and to be accurate, it is that individuals feel they are personally less likely to experience a negative event. We also know such a bias plays out across both positive and negative events.
- While positive events lead to an overall sense of wellbeing, the problem is negative events lead to more risk-taking behaviour and we are talking beyond the economic here. The likelihood is this could playout in the current climate as people prematurely come out of lockdown and forego personal safety and taking appropriate precautions. This is already happening across public transport but will likely quickly appear in schools as they return, in retail environments to cafes and restaurants etc.
- We’ve also been studying the implications of behavioural fatigue, that is as people we’re only good at being told what to do for so long and then fail to comply anymore, and it might well require a stick and carrot approach to reign us in. A message of both threat but also empathy and the prompt to look out for each other.
- Overall, maybe this points to people moving beyond the day-to-day survival mode they’ve been in for the past couple of months and are starting to look-up and forward again, both locally, nationally and beyond, hence the renewed interest in things further afield beyond COVID and Trump.
- Such restlessness could also lead to quite rash decision-making and could we see some somewhat questionable short-termism creeping in that people might well regret in the coming months and year ahead but right now, they’re not thinking as clearly as they normally would. Change, particularly unpredictability is a trigger for irrational behaviour, and this could be something interesting to keep close to in the coming weeks.