People still feeling the pinch, fed up with ‘shrinkflation’ as 2023 wraps up

The latest wave of the Ipsos Global Inflation Monitor finds people across 33 countries will have more money to spend in the next year as red-hot prices cool off slightly in many places; and almost half of the global public are seeing red over products getting smaller but prices staying the same.

Key findings:

  • Globally an average of 33% are ‘just about getting by’ financially with an additional 27% reporting they are finding it difficult financially.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) expect the rate of inflation in their country to rise in the next 12 months, down from 78% in April 2022.
  • Close to seven in ten expect an increase in the cost of their food shopping, utility/energy costs and other household shopping over the next six months.
  • More people think their standard of living (33%) and disposable income (31%) will rise in the next year than fall.
  • Almost half (46%) of the global public have noticed product sizes becoming smaller but prices remaining the same and a similar proportion (48%) find this ‘shrinkflation’ unacceptable. 
  • Concern has dipped slightly, but a significant proportion (46% on average globally) are still saying they think their country is in recession.

The latest wave of the Ipsos Global Inflation Monitor highlights continuing struggles amid the cost-of-living crisis with small glimmers of economic optimism among people in many countries around the world.

Inflation strain lingers

Around this time last year experts started warning that the world was very likely headed towards a severe recession in 2023 as several central banks hiked interest rates up in a bid to bring inflation rates down. A global recession hasn’t happened this year, but the scary warnings look to have spooked people.

Although few countries are currently in technical recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth), close to half (46% of the public on average across 33 countries) say they think their country is in recession, down slightly from 49% who said the same in April 2023. This includes a majority of people in nine countries, led by South Korea (79%), Hungary (77%) and Türkije (77%).

While many countries may not be in recession, expectation that unemployment will increase in the next year remains high. Fifty-nine per cent globally say there will be fewer jobs in 2024 and many countries have seen a rise in expectation since the previous wave in April. In Great Britain, which has been in all five waves of the Ipsos Global Inflation Monitor, expectation unemployment will rise is up 7pp to 62%, the highest-level Brits have recorded.

Ipsos | Inflation

Six in ten across 33 countries are experiencing some level of financial pressure – this includes almost three in ten (27%) who report they are finding it difficult to get by financially, down 1pp since April 2023. A further 33% say they are just about getting by, unchanged from April.

With inflation rates easing slightly in many countries in recent months, the cost-of-living pain looks to be slowly fading in some countries. In comparison to April 2023, the proportion finding it “very or fairly difficult” to get by has eased: from 30% to 23% in France, 26% to 23% in Great Britain and 24% to 17% in Germany.

Inflation remains a significant concern for the global public, with 62% across the 33 countries expecting it to rise over the coming year (-1pp from April 2023). In our What Worries the World survey, inflation has been the number one concern for the last 20 months in succession. 

About one in three (32%) are optimistic things will return to normal within the next year or sooner (+1pp). Meanwhile, 21% think inflation will never return to normal (+2pp), with citizens in India (37%) and South Africa (also 37%) being the most pessimistic.

Expectations for rising spending also remain high. Almost seven in ten across the 33 markets expect the cost of their food shopping to rise over the next year (69%, -2pp compared to April 2023) with similar proportions expecting an increase in the cost of utilities such as electricity and gas (68%, no change) and their other household shopping (66%, -1pp).

Ipsos | Inflation

Seeing some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel

But there are small signs of optimism in many markets.

Despite a pretty negative outlook, data from across the five waves of the Inflation Monitor suggests that the global public mood is slightly less pessimistic about the economic outlook than it was in 2022 when inflation was being supercharged by several factors, including pent-up consumer demand following COVID-19 lockdowns and the invasion of Ukraine.

Expectations for rising inflation are lower than they have been in nearly all countries surveyed: between April 2022 and November 2023 the proportion who expect inflation to rise has fallen by 29pp in both Germany (from 81% to 52%) and in Great Britain (85% to 56%). 

Expectations for falling disposable incomes have also softened: 29% on average globally think their disposable income will fall (-4pp from April 2023), while 31% think their disposable income will rise (+2pp). At the same time, 33% (+5pp) of global citizens predict their standard of living will rise over the next year versus 23% who think their standard of living will fall (-4pp).

There are also lower expectations for increases in relation to other areas of expenditure, including grocery shopping. Although 69% are expecting their grocery bill to rise over the year, this is lower than it was in 2022 for many countries. For instance, there has been a 16pp decline in expectations of rising grocery costs in Germany between April 2022 and November 2023 (from 85% to 69%).

Shrinking products fueling irritation

Across 33 countries, almost half (46%) of consumers say they have noticed product sizes becoming smaller, but the price remaining the same. ‘Shrinkflation’ is being seen most in Europe with Great Britain having the highest proportion of people noticing this practice (64%), followed closely by consumers in France (63%) and Germany (62%).

Meanwhile, much smaller proportions of shoppers in Latin American and Asian countries say they’ve noticed ‘shrinkflation’, with only 28% of Colombians and 30% in India and China have seen sizes reducing while the price stays the same.

Almost one-quarter (22% globally) say they find it acceptable that businesses/retailers reduce the size of their products while keeping prices the same as a way of responding to rising costs. But a much higher proportion (48% on average globally) find the practice of ‘shrinkflation’ unacceptable, with the French (67%) most upset.

The issue has sparked controversy with the European Commission calling it a “deceptive marketing technique”, while in France the government has said it will introduce a law ensuring that consumers will be notified if there is any reduction in size.

About this study 

These are the results of a 33-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform and, in India, on its IndiaBus platform, between Friday, October 20 and Friday, November 3, 2023.

For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 24,792 adults aged 18 years and older in India, 18-74 in Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Türkije, and the United States, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore, and 16-74 in all other countries.

“The Global Country Average” reflects the average result for all the countries and markets in which the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country or market and is not intended to suggest a total result.