What Worries the World – May 2021

Global coronavirus concern is much reduced from this time last year, but it remains top of our worry list and reaches a record high in India.

Our headline findings from the May 2021 What Worries the World results include:
Across 28 countries, 42% say that Covid is one of the top issues facing their country (down 3 points from last month and 29 points lower than this time last year).
The ongoing picture by individual country is far from stable. There have been decreases in levels of concern about Coronavirus of over 10 points in many countries since April. But we have seen a significant jump in India (+21 points).
The countries currently most concerned about Covid-19 are Malaysia, Japan, India and Canada.
Two-thirds (65%) of people say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction, according to our global country average.


1. Covid-19

On average, four in 10 (42%) worldwide say Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country today. This is 3 percentage points lower than the 45% recorded in the two previous months and 29 points below May 2020’s level of 71%.
Malaysia remains the nation with highest levels of worry about Coronavirus for the eighth consecutive month: 74% put it among their country’s top issues (the same proportion as May 2020).  Japan’s score is up 4 points to 68% while Canada remains fourth in the ranking with a 4-point increase to 63%.
Concern about Coronavirus has fallen by more than 10 points in a number of countries since last month, including Chile, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Mexico and Hungary. Although it is still the top worry in Great Britain, levels of concern have dropped by a further 9 points in May after an 8-point decline in April.

However, there have been increases in concern about Coronavirus in some countries, most significantly India (+21 points to 66% - the highest level the country has recorded so far). India is now the 3rd most worried country about Covid-19 in our survey, after Malaysia and Japan. India’s concern about Covid-19 was at 45% at the beginning of the year, falling even lower to 34% in February, a figure that is almost half of what we see today.


2. Unemployment

Unemployment is currently the second greatest worry worldwide; 34% say it is one of the most important issues facing their country today. This is down from the 37% seen in January 2021 and 8 points lower than the peak of 42% seen 12 months ago.
Two in three South Africans (66%) consider jobs to be among their country’s chief concerns. The same goes for six in 10 (60%) in Italy and Spain. These three countries show greater concern about Unemployment than any other issue in our survey.
The largest month-on-month increases in concern for Unemployment are seen in Hungary (+10 points), Sweden (also +10 points), and Saudi Arabia (+7)

3. Poverty & social inequality

One in three (32%) on average across all countries say that Poverty & social inequality is one of the top issues in their country today.
It is the top concern in Russia, where the proportion worried about it stands at 61% (+3 points vs. last month).
Concern about this issue has increased in Hungary (+7) and Colombia (+4), in 2nd and 3rd place this month. Israel also sees a 7-point increase.
Turkey, which has seen Unemployment head its worry list in recent months, now has Poverty & social inequality top; a 7-point increase to 45% there means it ranks 4th out of 28 countries.

4. Financial/Political Corruption

Financial/Political Corruption is the fourth greatest global concern, a position it has held for 12 months. Our study shows 30% on average count it among the big issues facing their country today.
South Africa is the country currently most concerned about corruption (63%, up 6 points since last month). However, Unemployment is currently a larger worry there today. Russia, joint-top of this list last month has now fallen 4 points to fourth.
Colombia, in second place, has seen the largest increase in concern on this issue compared to last month (+13 points). An 11-point drop in on this issue this in India comes alongside rising Coronavirus concern in the country.

5. Crime & violence

Crime & violence is the 5th greatest worry in April with one in four across all countries selecting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today.
Crime & violence is currently the number one concern in Chile, Israel, Mexico and Sweden.
The largest increases in concern about Crime & violence seen this month come from the US (+12 points), Sweden (+7), Chile (+6) and Mexico (also +6).


Heading in the right direction, or off on the wrong track?

Looking at how people around the world feel about where things in their country are heading, two-thirds (65%), according to our global country average, say that things in their country are on the wrong track. This compares to 35% who are more optimistic about where things are heading. This is 10 points higher than the 55% recorded twelve months ago.
An exceptionally high figure of 91% of Colombians saying that things are on the wrong track puts this nation ahead of the previously most pessimistic Peru, which is now second on 83%. Next in the list of countries feeling less-than-cheerful about their country’s direction of travel are Argentina (81%), South Africa (80%), Brazil (78%), Spain (77%) and Chile (77%).  
The largest month-on-month increases in people saying things in their country are on the “wrong track” are seen in India (+11 points) and Malaysia (+10 points).
India is still the third most optimistic country in our ranking, but today’s 52% score for “right direction” is much lower than the 69% recorded at the start of the year.