Nothing wrong here... say a disturbingly high number of young Asian professional in latest EY Fraud Survey. Photo: iStock

The global push to root out corruption is at risk of backsliding in Asia, with young professionals in the region more open to paying bribes than older colleagues, according to a new report by consultancy firm Ernst & Young.

The EY Fraud Survey found 38% of so-called millennials polled in the Asia Pacific region said they could justify paying cash to win or retain business. That’s 10 percentage points more than in other age groups.

“This is a wake-up call for businesses about the need to invest in more education and leadership,” Chris Fordham, head of EY’s Asia-Pacific fraud services unit, told reporters in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The picture was still more extreme in China, where 53% of millennials were open to offering entertainment to win business deals, while 51% would offer gifts or services as a bribe to help their business survive. This rate was considerably higher than in other age groups.

Ironically, at the same time millennials don’t want to work for companies with a reputation for unethical behavior. A clear majority (83%) said they would look for a new job if their organization were involved in a major fraud, bribery or corruption case.

The survey concludes young Asians have an “apparent conflicting attitude” towards fraud.

“On one hand, millennials feel it is okay to behave unethically in some situations. Yet on the other hand, they take a strong stand against working for an unethical business,” Fordham said.