There’s something Australia could do that would add $45 billion to the national economy and $1,800 to every Aussie’s paypacket.
But it’s not something that directly leads to more money-making. Rather, it’s a change of heart.
According to a Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by not-for-profit organisation The Ethics Centre, a 10 per cent improvement in ethical behaviour could lead to a bump in wages of up to 6.6 per cent and a 1 per cent improvement in mental health.
A 2.7 per cent increase in wages could add $23 billion to aggregate wages across the economy, according to the report.
Also read: The Aussie economy: Where are we at?
And stronger ethics in the business sector would mean lower costs of regulation and compliance.
“If Australia was to improve ethical behaviour, which in turn led to an increase in trust, in line with the world’s leading countries, average annual incomes would increase by approximately $1,800.
“This equates to a net increase in total incomes across Australia of approximately $45 billion. These annual benefits would grow towards these levels as the country moved towards higher levels of trust.”
The big picture
Australia will have to navigate a perfect storm of factors, including the global pandemic, emerging issues around the future of work and new technologies, a more dangerous geo-political environment, and long-term social and environmental challenges like climate change and reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, the report said.
All of this will require strong leadership – but this will depend on trust, especially in key institutions, and this will depend on “the quality of ethical decision making by individuals, groups and organisations”.
“There remains significant scope for Australia to lift our levels of ethical behaviour and trust,” the report said.
Australia’s trust in one another leaves room to be desired: only 56 per cent of Aussies feel most people can be trusted, and only two thirds of people feel others keep their word or succeed without stepping on other people.
“In some respects, Australia’s relative ethical performance is no surprise. A steady stream of state and federal political scandals has eroded trust.”
Several Royal Commissions have uncovered unconscionable behaviour in religious institutions, misconduct in the banking and financial services industry, and unacceptable behaviour in aged care centres.
How do we actually become more ethical?
It’s not a small task: improving ethics would require a “multifaceted and coordinated approach,” the report said.
“The complexity of ethical decision making, and the infrastructure needed to support it, means improving ethics cannot be achieved with a single initiative. Recognising these inherent challenges, there are a number of potential initiatives which can help improve ethics in Australia.”
According to Deloitte, there are five things the Government could implement or improve on:
Developing an Ethical Infrastructure Index
Elevating public discussions about ethics
Strengthening ethics education
Embedding ethics within institutions
Supporting ethics in government and the regulatory framework
Better ethics could also help Australia with some key challenges, such as reconciling with First Nations people, tackling climate change and navigating the AI revolution.
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