What do you find important in your life? What are you really worried about? What do you think Australia collectively cares about? Partnership, a fair chance, freedom, equality?
Asking yourself what you value isn’t as easy as it sounds. Do I love freedom? Sure, who doesn’t? What about compassion, work ethic, and physical health? Yes, these are important too!
I like the approach taken by global opinion and research firm YouGov in their report for Havas Labs to determine Australia’s values.
First, they selected 25 values considered “Australian” in media, government publications, Australian Bureau of Statistics data, citizenship tests, research papers, and popular culture.
They then had study participants sort these 25 values in order of relative importance to themselves (what do I care about most?) and the nation (what does Australia care about?).
Researchers use a clever little twist to sort things because the lowest-ranked item is not seen as unimportant but only as less important. The result is a somewhat meaningless percentage indicating the relative importance of values.
Let’s not focus on the numbers but look at the position of certain values when ranked according to different personal characteristics.
Let’s not beat around the bush. What are the Australian values?
For the nation as a whole, the top values have a bit of a cliché feel to them. Australia’s number one equal opportunity value is a fancy way of saying everyone deserves a fair chance. Un unsurprisingly, freedom came in a close second after two pandemic years of curtailed freedoms.
The classical Australian value of partnership is third, followed by evergreen values of honesty and security.
What are the values the nation values least? Remember, that doesn’t mean Australia hates this one, just that the other 24 or so values are more valuable.
Nevertheless, the list reads like a joke at the expense of Australia. Intellectualism? No, thank you. Creativity? Overrated. Entrepreneurship? I don’t like turtlenecks. Art and culture? Oh, Gad. Performance? Nobody likes a big poppy. Everything is promoted in a TED talk, and Australia turns its back on it.
That’s what we think the nation cares about. What do we care about most as individuals?
Let’s compare what people value individually to what they think the national values. Honesty is the number one value and has moved up three places. Freedom comes back in second place. Equal opportunities fall from first place to third place. Compassion didn’t even feature in the top 10 of national values and is now in fourth place – tolerance is also a newcomer to the top of the rankings.
How do I explain these differences? First and foremost, individuals value things that fall within their own area of control. We are personally responsible for being honest and compassionate, and we determine how hard we work. We still care about equal opportunities and safety but recognize that these are beyond our control.
My favorite part of this research is comparing the values of baby boomers with those of Generation Z. These two generations are 40 to 50 years apart. One generation slowly enters the labor market, and the other slowly leaves the labor market. Let’s see where and how their worldviews differ.
Look at honesty, which is what baby boomers value most. Honesty is only fourth with Gen Z. Again, this doesn’t mean that Gen Z doesn’t care about fairness; it just means they care about equal opportunity, freedom, and sustainability.
The biggest differences in values between Boomers and Zoomers (how can I resist using this popular catchphrase?) are probably linked to their respective stages in the life cycle. The young Zs care more about intellectualism (rank 10 out of 25) than baby boomers (rank 23). This difference can be explained by the fact that Gen Z is still largely involved in education.
Young generations have always been much more focused on making a name for themselves than the older generations, who have already earned some achievements. Gen Z also focuses much more on achievement (Rank 12) than Baby Boomers (Rank 24). The durability makes Gen Z’s top three (Rank 3) while landing in the middle of the table for the Boomers (Rank 14).
Today’s young people probably think that just tolerating another is not enough? On the other hand, Baby Boomers value tolerance (Rank 7) much more than Generation Z (Rank 21). A similar picture emerges about the value of tradition.
It is clear that older generations value traditions more – they have helped to create or maintain those traditions. Throughout the ages, young people have always tried to deconstruct, reform, or even overthrow old habits. This is very much the role of the young.
I grew up in a family that taught me that losing a good friend was better than passing up an opportunity to tell a bad joke (or make a bad pun). This dataset offers a wonderful opportunity for a terrible joke. The young Gen Zs (Rank 6) value the good old Aussie value of partnership less than their Baby Boomer counterparts (Rank 4).
The helmsman has sailed! Bruhaha, what a play on words. The opposite is probably the case. The relative value generations attribute to partnership decreased with each age until it reached Gen Z and saw a revival.
Silent Generation 65 percent Baby Boomers 60 percent Gen X 44 percent Millennials 37 percent Gen Z 47 percent
The Australian helmsman may have sailed before but is now on the horizon again.