The latest national update in the Bastion survey series tracking sentiment during the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed Australians are more optimistic about a ‘better normal’, despite growing concerns about job prospects and the nation’s future.
The 26th national Adapting to the New Normal Wave report shows Australians conflicted on the impact of the pandemic on their lives and a desire for a more simplified life and a more compassionate community as we approach our second COVID Christmas.
Says Dianne Gardiner, executive director, Bastion Insights: “Australians are completely divided on whether the pandemic has provided opportunities to change their life or habits for the better. While one-third see a better normal for themselves, another third say ‘no’, and a third are unsure.
“Many of those reporting improvements cite better family life, more time spent together and better relationships. Many hope to retain work-life balance gains, while others cited improvements in personal habits and rituals that have given rise to a healthier life. More time for self, simplifying life and appreciating what they have also emerged as an important theme.”
Our personal positivity is tempered by our collective outlook on Australia’s future, with optimism for the country declining nationally to now sit 13 points below levels seen in March 2021.
Interestingly against a backdrop of an impending Federal election, perceptions of the Federal Government response has stabilised, with views now evenly split between positive (38%) and negative (37%).
Despite widespread reporting of the ‘great resignation’ and mass staff shortages plaguing the hospitality industry, Australians’ confidence in employment in the coming year has declined.
While two in three (66%) Australians are confident about their employment over the next 12 months, 17% are not. The greatest employment worries come from those who are unvaccinated and intend to remain so, with almost half (45%) lacking confidence in their job prospects.
The Bastion report shows Australia has become a nation of ‘COVID chameleons’. Our ability to adapt to change (40%) tops the list of aspects of life that have improved most through the pandemic. Many of us have also improved our personal resilience (32%), family/life relationships (27%), personal habits (26%) and work/life balance (25%).
Australians have kept their sense of optimism personally, with the importance of community coming together and helping each other one of the strongest themes inspiring our hopefulness. Absence may indeed make the heart grow fonder, with the pandemic making us feel closer to families and loved ones despite lockdowns and social distancing.
Says Gardiner: “Australians have reset their personal expectations, with greater sensitivity to their own and others’ mental wellness. They want optimism, greater understanding and acceptance of human weaknesses to become part of the everlasting legacy of the pandemic.
“Resilience, adaptability, patience and understanding top the list of changes Australians most want to see people hold onto to build a ‘better normal’.”
Life is not all rosy, however, with wellbeing the biggest loser. Around three in 10 Australians say their physical (27%) and mental (32%) wellbeing has deteriorated, while just one in five say they have improved (21% and 17% respectively).
When it comes to Australians’ life satisfaction, those in Victoria remain significantly less satisfied than any other state (10 points below the national average), with NSW showing the greatest improvement.
The report shows buoyed community sentiment around COVID in the community. Concern has dropped significantly on all measures nationally, with Victorians’ concerns now only slightly higher than other states. While concern over exposure to COVID-19 has declined across the board, it remains high.
Most Australians now believe COVID will have a significant impact for at least two more years, while one in five (19%) believe it is here to stay. Those under 30 are the most optimistic, with just 8% believing the virus will remain for the long haul.