October 30, 2020

NAB Special Report: Coronavirus Behaviour Survey Q3 2020

Australians are expecting lasting changes in their post COVID behaviours, but a growing number of us are yearning to return to our “old lives”.

NAB today released its latest survey exploring the key concerns of Australians over COVID-19 and how the virus is influencing our behaviours.

Many Australians remain deeply concerned over coronavirus with over 4 in 10 Australians continuing rate their concern very high (at 8 or more out of 10).  Concerns remain highest in VIC (unchanged from Q2 at 6.9), followed closely by NSW (also broadly unchanged at 6.8). In SA (6.6), WA (6.3) and QLD (6.3) concern rose a little, but fell noticeably in the ACT (6.5), TAS (6.4) and the NT (4.6).

With the number of active cases remaining low across much of the country and growing confidence in the ability of our health system to cope, our biggest worries are increasingly focussed on the economy, business closures, employment (particularly in Victoria) and travel restrictions.

The virus is forcing us to rethink how we will change the way we live in the future and many Australians continue to expect significant change. Apart from our personal hygiene, Australians expect the biggest lasting changes in behaviour will be fewer overseas holidays, travelling less on planes and public transport, saving more, less time in major shopping centres, eating out less and shopping more on-line.

The survey also explores the “new normal” post coronavirus and to what extent do we really want our pre-COVID lives back? Some aspects of life have changed for the positive, so it can be extremely difficult to go back to something viewed as less desirable.

While most Australians continue to say they do not want their lives to completely return as they were before the virus, the lure of our old lives is growing. People are creatures of habit and there is growing reason to believe that as life starts up again, some old habits will return as many behavioural shifts like travelling to work, have been the result of enforced change.

Higher levels of pollution and a faster pace of life are still the key concerns about a return to “normal”, but these worries are decreasing. Far fewer Australians are also worried about consuming more, spending less time with family and commuting to work as life resumes. However, with the economy in deep recession, many more are anxious about ongoing support for the unemployed and small business.

Outside of seeing family, we are most looking forward to being able to travel again, both overseas and within Australia.

A common prediction post COVID-19 has been that many of us will fundamentally re-evaluate our lives and work remotely, resulting in an exodus out of big cities or even states. NAB’s research continues to suggest relatively few people are considering such a move, albeit numbers are rising, particularly in Victoria. Even if remote working becomes pervasive, given the cost of relocating not everybody will be able or want to escape for a lifestyle change.

It is never wise to bet against the attraction of living in or near a major city. Most large world cities have launched initiatives aimed at retaining residents and local businesses. But much is at stake. Any significant lasting reduction in CBD employment would have big implications for tax revenue, the provision of public services and therefore liveability.

Finally, the report revisits the issue of trust. In a positive endorsement of the government’s handling of coronavirus, all levels of government have seen a big uplift in trust levels.

Get the full details in the NAB Special Report Coronavirus Behaviour Survey Q3 2020