Equality kaleidoscope

The kaleidoscope of equality

Ipsos | Equality kaleidoscope

On average across 33 countries, more than half of citizens (52%) say that inequality is important when considered amongst all other problems facing their country, with only 8% saying it’s not important. But how does country and context affect what people imagine a fair society to be? And what should we target in the pursuit of equality?

What does a fair society look like?

We asked people to make a choice – is a fair society one in which everyone is given the same opportunities? Or one in which everyone enjoys the same quality of life?

Globally, few people are particularly taken with the idea of equal outcomes in and of itself. Just one in five people globally (18%) think this is a more accurate definition than having access to the same opportunities, with support only varying by 12pts (reaching a high of 23% in Turkey, Switzerland and India and a low of 11% in Portugal).

Conversely, having the same opportunities is a view which receives much greater support, with almost one in two globally (46%) selecting this as the definition of a fair society. While this opinion is particularly strong in Portugal (68%), Peru (61%) and Poland (58%), there is a 47pt difference between the top and the bottom of the country rankings, with support falling to just 21% in India.

India’s low score is not indicative of an indifference towards having access to the same opportunities – rather it is a result of not wanting to choose between equal opportunities and equal quality of life.

However, India’s low score is not indicative of an indifference towards having access to the same opportunities – rather it is a result of not wanting to choose between equal opportunities and equal quality of life. While countries like Poland and Portugal have an easier time choosing between the two, elsewhere citizens refuse to give up on one to have the other. More than a third say that equal outcomes and equal opportunities are as important as each other to the definition of a fair society in Thailand (41%), India (38%), Brazil (37%), Malaysia (36%), South Africa and Australia (both 35%).

Have we gone far enough?

Globally, there is agreement that more work needs to be done. In 32 out of 33 countries surveyed, more people agree that we need to go further to promote equality for all groups of people than say we have gone too far (49% vs 19% on average respectively). Poland is the outlier, with more than one in four saying we’ve gone too far (26% vs 23% who say we need to go further).

Ipsos | Equality  kaleidoscope Nevertheless, the view that attempts to promote equality have gone too far is not negligible, holding particular strength in Great Britain (28%), Argentina (27%), the US and Poland (both 26%).

In contrast, fewer than one in [10] agree that efforts have gone too far in Indonesia (6%) and Portugal (8%), both countries also leading the way in their acknowledgement that more needs to be done.

Ipsos | Equality  kaleidoscope

Ipsos | Equality  kaleidoscope Who’s the priority?

Globally, people with physical disabilities are seen as the group facing the most unfair or unequal treatment (chosen by 33% of people on average). They are followed by women (26%), and people with mental health conditions (25%), but the picture varies considerably by country (see Figure 10).


Women don’t make the top three everywhere

While more than one in four globally think women face some of the most discrimination in their country, concern is notably lower in certain places. In Japan, for instance, only 15% consider women to be the group facing most unequal treatment – but Japan’s culture leads to a complex relationship with gender equality. Despite sitting in 125th of 146 countries for gender equality,[9] in a survey of 27 countries, people in Japan – both men and women – were the least likely to say that achieving gender equality is important to them personally. Read more about how the cultural, institutional and societal context drives ambivalence towards gender inequality in Japan here.

LGB people are a priority in LATAM

On average globally just under one in four (24%) say that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people face the most discrimination, but this rises to 42% in Poland and 40% in Brazil where they also rank top as the group facing most inequality. This view is more prevalent across Latin America generally, with Latin American countries making up five of the six countries most likely to pick lesbians, gay men and bisexuals as the groups facing most unequal treatment – Brazil 40%, Peru (35%), Mexico (both 35%), Colombia (34%) and Chile (31%).

The more you see the more you care?Ipsos | Equality  kaleidoscope

We see a positive correlation between the ethnic diversity of a country – measured through ethnic fractionalisation i.e., the probability that two randomly drawn individuals from a country belong to two different ethnic groups[10] – and the proportion of people who say that minority ethnic groups face the most inequality. More ethnically homogenous countries like South Korea or Japan are much less likely to see minority ethnic groups as those facing most inequality (9% and 7%, respectively), while the contrary is true of more diverse countries like Indonesia (38%) and Peru (33%).

We see a positive correlation between the ethnic diversity of a country and the proportion of people who say that minority ethnic groups face the most inequality.

There are some outliers though. The comparatively homogenous country of the Netherlands places minority ethnic groups at the top of the list of groups who most face unequal treatment, coming second in the global rankings with 35%. Meanwhile, the heterogenous country of India ranks comparatively low (17% choose minority ethnic groups). Instead, greater unfair treatment is perceived as a result of religious membership. Over one in four Indians (26%) select people of specific religions as the group who face the most unequal treatment in India, ranking joint-second and 14pts above the global country average. People of specific religious groups also come joint-second in Indonesia (40%, 28pts above the global country average).

Concern and contradictionIpsos | Equality  kaleidoscope

In Britain, the picture differs once again, with Britons perceiving immigrants as the group facing the most unequal treatment (30% vs global country average of 22%). Immigrants are also the #2 and #3 groups facing most unequal treatment in Belgium (32%) and the Netherlands (30%) respectively. This points to complex attitudes towards immigration, as people in each of these countries also cite immigration control as the fifth most worrying issue facing their country.

The old and the young

Turkey stands out for several reasons. First, for its higherthan-average agreement that women face unequal treatment (25pts higher than the global average). Second, for its perception of the old and the young. Senior citizens and young adults rank joint-third in Turkey as groups facing the most unequal treatment, chosen by one in four (25%, 14pts above the global average), suggesting that age-based discrimination is seen as particularly prominent in Turkey.

Ipsos | Equality  kaleidoscope How should we move forwards?

In each of the 30 countries surveyed, people are most likely to say that the government is the entity primarily responsible for taking action to reduce inequality. Six in 10 (66%) agree with this on average globally, rising to almost eight in 10 in Romania (79%). Only in the US (48%) and India (40%) does a majority not hold this view.

On the global scale, government sits 40pts ahead of the entity ranking second: the media (26%). The media is seen to play a particularly important role in Indonesia (38%), Peru (37%), South Africa and South Korea (both 34%).

This points to an opportunity globally – but in these countries especially – for brands to improve engagement by inclusive representation in their advertising. And we can see from our research that in addition to contributing towards a better society, positive representations in ads also lead to positive business outcomes.

Brands must be cognisant of these country and cultural differences in order to be empathetic with their positioning. They must take differing priorities and concerns into account in order to ensure that local executions of products and communications are sensitive, driving inclusivity in an authentic way.


[9] World Economic Forum. 2023. “Global Gender Gap Report 2023”

[10] Alesina, Alberto, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly, Sergio Kurlat, and Romain Wacziarg. 2003. Fractionalization. Journal of Economic Growth 8(2): 155-194.

Table of contents

  1. ESG across borders: the cultural context
  2. "Sustainability": All on the same page?
  3. Equality Kaleidoscope
  4. The climate of climate change opinion
  5. Applying cultural transferability analysis to ESG
  6. ESG across borders: United States of America
  7. ESG across borders: India
  8. ESG across borders: Brazil
  9. ESG across borders: South Africa
  10. ESG across borders: China

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