Global Divide on Social Mobility

Ipsos' survey for the World Economic Forum shows widespread enthusiasm about the future in emerging markets contrasting with rampant pessimism in mature economies.

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Public Affairs, US
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Davos, January 19, 2020 — Global citizens are evenly split on whether today’s young people are better or worse off than their parents when it comes to their financial wellbeing and job security. Pessimists outnumber optimists when considering young people’s personal safety and their ability to be homeowners and to live comfortably when they retire. On the other hand, there is a global consensus about today’s youth being better off than their elders in terms of having access to information and to entertainment.

These are some of the findings of a new Ipsos survey conducted on behalf of the World Economic Forum in 33 countries and markets in November and December 2019 among more than 22,000 adults aged 16-74.

  • Four in five adults surveyed globally say today’s youth is or will be better off than their parents when it comes to having access to information (82% vs. 8% who say it is or will be worse off and 10% who say it is or will neither better nor worse) and to entertainment (80% better vs. 8% and 13%, respectively).
  • More than three in five across the world feel the same about young people’s ability to travel abroad (67% better vs. 16% worse and 18% neither better nor worse), to have a good education (64% vs. 22% and 15%, respectively), and to be free to be true to themselves (61% vs. 20% and 20%, respectively). Just half say today’s youths have better prospects for a successful career than their parents did (52% vs. 27% and 21%, respectively).
  • Only four in ten adults globally say young people are or will be better off than their parents when it comes to having enough money to live well (42% vs. 39% worse and 19% neither better nor worse), having a secure job (41% vs. 42% and 18%, respectively) and being able to own their own home (40% vs. 44% and 17%, respectively).
  • Less than four in ten say young people have better prospects than their elders with regards to being able to live comfortably when they retire (38% vs. 45% worse and 17% neither better nor worse) and to being safe from crime and harm (35% vs. 44% and 21%, respectively).

The survey shows a stark contrast between emerging countries and mature markets.

Across most emerging countries, optimism reigns on nearly all issues (although safety from crime is a frequent exception). The reverse is true in most advanced economies. Pessimism about young people’s physical safety, financial wellbeing and job security is the norm in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Israel.

In many domains, the global percentage of people surveyed saying that the prospects of today’s youth are better than their parents’ is higher in than it was in 2016, when Ipsos conducted a similar survey with identical questions.

  • Optimism about young people’s situation and prospects relative to their parents has increased by significant margins on nearly all issues measured in Poland, South Korea, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and India.
  • Optimism has also grown on many issues in Germany, Belgium, France, Peru, Australia, South Africa, Italy and Turkey on many issues.
  • When looking at all domains combined, Canada and the United States are the only two countries surveyed that show no significant gains in optimism over the past three years.

The survey also explored how people compare their personal situation against that of their own parents’ generation. In nearly every country and on nearly every issue, the results are very similar to people’s assessment of the situation and prospects of today’s young people compared to their parents’.

Read the World Economic Forum report here.

These are the results of an Ipsos survey conducted between November 22 and December 31, 2019 on the Global Advisor online platform among 22,285 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong and Turkey and 16-74 in 25 other markets.
The sample consists of approximately 1000+ individuals in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland), France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain and the U.S., and approximately 500+ individuals in each of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Poland Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey.
The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the U.S. can be taken as representative of these countries’ general adult population under the age of 75.
The samples in Brazil, Chile, China (mainland), Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey are more urban, more educated and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of these population.
The data is weighted so that each market’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.
Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 4.8 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Public Affairs, US

Society