What we are seeing is three macro trends growing – the war in Ukraine, the effects of climate change, and wage increases in Asia – with simultaneous consequences:
- The increase in energy prices as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- The shortage of resources and raw materials (geopolitical trade-offs, poor harvests, priority given to local populations vs. exports).
- The rise in the income of workers in the manufacturing sector in China has multiplied by ten in the last decade. The median monthly wage in Shanghai is higher than that of European countries such as Croatia, Latvia or Lithuania.
At end of the supply chain, consumers are feeling the impact of these price rises, which has brought into doubledigit inflation in most countries of the world (6.2% in France in October 2022).
Added to our complicated economic situation is the impact of climate change and the measures taken to slow it down. For example, the introduction of Low Emission Zones in more than 40 cities, banning high polluting vehicles.
Already in place in 11 French cities including Paris, Montpellier, Toulouse, Rouen, this ban will affect – by the second half of 2024 – 40% of current drivers.
I don’t understand when people say that we can’t do anything, that’s how the prices go up... well, let’s wait for it to double and half of the French people can no longer go to work or go shopping.
Our analysis of the French online Ipsos community (ConnectLive) reveals four profiles of French public opinion: the Volunteers, the Followers, the Sad, the Appalled.
For the Volunteers, price increases and environmental restrictions represent an opportunity to change our view of our behaviours; they share the idea that “the days of affluence are over” for economic reasons, and perhaps above all ideological ones. It has shown its limits (for instance excessive exploitation of natural resources, globalisation and search for maximum profit, waste).
The current situation makes it possible to accelerate the transition towards a virtuous model which deserves to sacrifice a certain number of the characteristics of the lifestyle of the rich countries to favour local, sustainable agriculture. We will not be surprised to see that the Volunteers are more likely to live in urban areas. They are also people who have embraced the importance of transforming their habits to preserve the planet such as cutting back spending, recycling.
The Appalled consider that “it is always the same people who must make an effort” and feel engulfed in restrictions. For example, the taxes – Yellow Vests (2018/2019), anti-Covid 19 restrictions (2020/2021), price increases (2022). They are not necessarily climatosceptics, but people who feel tired of having to navigate between avoiding punishments (fines, penalties) and obtaining rewards (bonuses, access to EPZs). They are to be found in small and medium-sized towns, and are typically younger. This audience should be closely followed, especially when environmental policies will be more concrete and if inflation takes hold over time, with these two limits (environmental and economic) creating frustration.
As their name suggests, the Followers adapt their behaviour and their consumption because the pressure of inflation is more and more real for them and feel they “have no choice” when it comes to environmental regulations. They also say they are more sensitive and more ready to change their habits, given the seriousness of climate change.
The Sad form a very interesting segment because it appears for the first time in an explicit way: “Progress allows us to have more and more leisure, entertainment, food choices, but we don’t have the means to profit from it, it is a pity”. Their sadness arises from the tension between what is possible and what is allowed.
What is possible is a “carefree” life, having fun without automatically thinking about the environmental or ethical consequences of a trip or a purchase, not being punished or frowned upon for this. Having only financial limits, in other words, “taking advantage” of everything allowed by the consumer society as it has developed.
What is allowed is what we can afford from an economic point of view in a context where price increases imply lower sales (purchases in large retailers are starting to drop in volume).
They have the feeling of entering a world of “tiny pleasures” whereas previous generations will have known capital pleasures, which they themselves could have accessed if economic pressure on the one hand and environmental constraints weren’t leaving them squashed in the middle.
Table of content
- Feeling the pressure: Context
- Understanding human psychology during the polycrisis
- Has disruption become the new normal?
- The Indian consumer's response to inflation
- Turkey: Re-designing adaptation in the shadow of hyperinflation
- Brazil: Downsizing VS price rises- making the right choice
- Malaysia: Between money well spent and life well lived
- Understanding Argentina
- France: The end of recklessness
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