Cheats prosper in Europe

Apparently most Europeans think business cheating is still on the rise. And it's not just the Italians...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

About 54% of Europeans think cheating is more prevalent in business transactions than ever before, according to a survey by market research group GfK on behalf of the Wall Street Journal. In Western Europe, Italy is apparently the worst country for cheating: 92% of respondents said it had a ‘major problem’. And given that the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is trying to legislate his way out of corruption and bribery charges, there’s little chance of that changing any time soon…

Cheating on taxes is also considered to have become more common in the last decade. Again, Italy was considered the worst offender – in fact, the situation has got so bad there that the previous government recently took the extraordinary step of revealing everyone’s salary details online, until the supreme court banned it as unconstitutional. But it wasn’t the only one – more than half of the survey’s 20,000 respondents worldwide suggested tax cheating was getting worse in their country, while 35% said more people were getting one over on their work colleagues.

Equally, it’s not just money and work that makes us flout the rules. The survey also discovered that people think cheating is on the rise in education, sport and romantic relationships (guess which race of tax-dodging lotharios were most likely to cheat on their partners? Clue: it wasn’t us). So basically, our morals seem to be degenerating across the board.

Of course, most respondents claimed to thoroughly disapprove of all this, with about two-thirds suggesting that cheating was never OK in any circumstances (including 72% of Brits). Most blasé were the French, almost half of whom think cheating is perfectly acceptable in certain circumstances; for instance, when everyone else is doing, if the amounts involved are very small, to right a perceived wrong, or when you know you won’t get caught. At least they’re honest about it...

Then again, if Italian or French people are starting to feel a bit embarrassed about this alleged rising tide of dishonesty in their countries, they should look on the bright side – at least they don’t live in Turkey. About 90% of Turks thought cheating was getting worse in every single one of the categories discussed. Better not tell that to the EU...

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