Global predictions for 2023

Following a very challenging couple of years in 2020 and 2021, many people around the world feel 2022 has been a little better. However, uncertainty about both short- and longer-term futures prevails. Global citizens are struggling to be optimistic about 2023 as most express concern about the state of the economy, the environment and world security.

How was it for you? 2022 in retrospect

In what is now a decade-old annual tradition, Ipsos recently asked more than 24,000 citizens of 36 countries to reflect on the year gone by and the year ahead.

As 2022 was marked by COVID-19, international conflict, economic woes, and an increasingly urgent climate emergency, many agree it has been a challenging year. As usual, there is a marked difference between how people feel the year coming to an end has treated them and their family and how it has impacted their country as a whole. On average across all 36 countries, over half (56%) describe 2022 as a bad year for themselves and their family. Even more (73%) say it has been a bad year for their country. And yet, these figures suggest a degree of improvement. Both are better than the corresponding figures for 2021 (which were 58% and 77% respectively) and markedly better from the annus horribilis that was 2020 when 90% said it had been a bad year for their country and 70% that it had been a bad year for them and their family.

However, these global figures mask a world in very different places emotionally. In 15 of the 36 markets covered, more than 80% feel 2022 has been a bad year for their country, peaking in Great Britain and Hungary (both 87%). In only four of the markets (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both at 44%, and in China and Switzerland, both at 48%) do less than half of those surveyed feel 2022 has been a bad year. Yet on balance, the trend tends to be positive. The percentage of those describing 2022 as a bad year for their country is lower than the percentage of those who had said the same about 2021 by an average of 4 percentage points globally. It is lower by 10 points or more in eight of the 26 countries – most so in Singapore (23 points lower), India (16 points lower), and Malaysia (14 points lower). However, the reverse is seen in Poland (10 points higher), Sweden (12 points higher), and Denmark (13 points higher).

Looking towards 2023

This cautious optimism isn’t apparent in all areas of life, however. Of the 17 questions where we have trend data since 2021, particularly those focused on what 2023 will be like, around half show a significantly more pessimistic view of what next year will bring. Much of this negativity surrounds the economic situation, but it extends beyond the economy to encompass climate-related disasters, the use of nuclear weapons, and even asteroid impacts and visits from aliens.

The economy in 2023

Overall, there is much more pessimism about the global economy than we saw this time last year. Only 46% on average believe that the global economy will be stronger next year, compared to 61% who did so last year and 54% in 2020. People in Belgium are the most pessimistic about the economy with as few as 27% expecting to see improvements, while those in China and the UAE where 78% and 76% respectively anticipate better times, are the most optimistic.

The reasons for this pessimism are clear. Large majorities expect the cost of living (79% expect prices to rise, 75% expect to see higher inflation rates), levels of unemployment (68%), and interest rates (74%) to increase.

Even more worryingly, nearly half (46%) think it likely that their country will need to be bailed out with emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund, with those in South Africa (78%) and Argentina (70%) being particularly worried about this possibility.

Around half (50%) think it is likely that major stock markets around the world will crash, a significant increase from 2022 where 35% thought they were likely to crash. This year 15% of people think this is very likely to happen.

World security in 2023

World security has been very much on everyone’s minds in 2022 with active conflict zones in several parts of the world and international tensions rising in others.

The possible escalation of such conflicts has increased concern that nuclear weapons will be used somewhere in the world. Nearly half (48%) now feel this is a likely scenario rather than a mere possibility, up markedly from the 34% we saw this time last year. This anxiety is particularly high in Indonesia (69%) as well as Peru and Colombia (both 62%).

The role of technology in potential disruption is also recognised. More than four in 10 (44%, up from 38% last year) say it is likely hackers from a foreign government will cause a global IT shutdown. Nearly half feel that a rogue artificial intelligence program that can’t be shut down will cause significant havoc in their country though, encouragingly, this proportion has fallen markedly since last year (down 15 percentage points).

The general mood of anxiety has even had knock-on effects on concerns about catastrophic stellar events. Now, 22% think an asteroid strike on earth is likely in 2023 (up from 16% last year and 15% the previous year) while 18% expect aliens to visit the earth  (up from 14% last year), but as ever, Indians are most likely to expect visitors from outer space (43% there feel this is likely to happen next year).

Environment in 2023

Most people around the world believe we will see more climate change consequences in 2023. For example, 65% (up from 60% last year) say it is likely there will be more extreme weather events in their country next year. Many countries – particularly across Europe - are pessimistic about the role that technology will have in halting climate change. Less than 20% of people in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, and Romania think that it will be likely that there will be a breakthrough technology developed which will halt climate change. The Japanese are also pessimistic on this front (only 14% of Japanese feel it is likely to happen).

More than half  (57%) also feel that 2023 will likely be the hottest year on record where they live while around one-in-three (36%) are even more pessimistic, thinking it is likely that parts of their country will become unliveable because of an extreme weather event during the coming year.

More than four in ten (45% up from 39% last year) expect a natural disaster to hit a major city in their country. There is a particularly wide spread of country variation on this issue, with concern ranging from highs of 78% in Indonesia, 66% in Turkey, and 65% in the United States, down to under 25% in Ireland, Hungary, and Israel (all 24%), Switzerland and Denmark (both 23%), and  Romania (22%).

Expectations for major progress in tackling climate change are relatively low: The numbers who expect to see people flying less than they did in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic are down from 45% last year to 42% now. This is no doubt driven by a desire to resume foreign travel habits as the rules and restrictions introduced to try to limit the spread of Covid have been eased around the world. Only around one-third think it likely that the number of bicycles will outnumber the number of cars in their capital city (34%) or that there will be a breakthrough technology developed which will halt climate change (32%)

Society in 2023

Six in ten (60%) anticipate no further Covid-19 lockdowns in their country next year as people get back to some form of normality. In China and South Korea, around half of the surveyed people (43% and 44% respectively) think it is likely that this will be the case. Whereas in Indonesia, the vast majority (82%) are very confident that they will not experience further lockdowns in 2023.

It is not yet clear to what degree the changes to working patterns that were enforced by Covid will persist and continue to evolve – only around one in three (37%) believe that it will become normal for businesses in their country to implement a four-day working week during 2023. The proportion thinking that many more people will live their lives in virtual worlds is virtually unchanged from last year at 56%.

Globally, around one in three (34% up from 28% last year) say is likely that people in their country will become more tolerant of each other but there are massive differences from one country to another. In India, this continues to rise (65% now, up from 60% last year), and, whilst it is still low, in France the percentage has almost doubled from last year from 9% in 2022 to 17% in 2023. Japan has now replaced France at the bottom of the table with only 12% of people thinking that people will become more tolerant of each other.

Technology in 2023

Some expect to see space feature heavily in 2023: Around half (47%) expect that a rocket will be launched en route to Mars during the coming year, while 39% think it likely that there will be a space tourism service launched that will offer people trips to land on the moon.

Fewer – 27% - think it likely that an implant will be successfully implanted in a human brain to restore lost memories.

Outlook 2023

Hope springs eternal. Even with all of the negativity and uncertainty surrounding the future, two in three (65%) still expect a better year in 2023 than they experienced in 2022, ranging from 36% of Japanese to 85% of Brazilians. China’s optimism has dropped from 94% in 2022 to 83% in 2023.

Optimism for the coming year has fallen significantly (by over 10 percentage points) in 24 of the 32 countries covered this year and last, with particularly large declines in Sweden (-26 points), Italy, Denmark, and South Korea (all down 19 points), and Japan (-18 points). In only one market has optimism gone up – Brazil – and even there it has only gone up marginally (from 82% to 85%).

As in most years, three in four (74%) say they will make some personal resolutions to do some specific things for themselves or others in 2023. As many as 91% in Peru, 90% in Colombia and Mexico, and 89% in China say so. The Netherlands (45%) Japan (41%) and Sweden (35%) are the only countries where a minority will be making resolutions for the new year.


About this study

These are the results of a 36-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 24,471 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore, and 16-74 in 26 other markets between Friday, October 21 and Friday, November 4, 2022.

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