What Worries the World – April 2021

Overall levels of concern about Coronavirus remain steady worldwide, but the underlying picture is unstable. Worries about Covid-19 are rising in a number of countries, while starting to decline in others.

The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
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Covid-19 remains the top global concern in our 28-country What Worries the World survey. This continues the trend seen since we began tracking it alongside 17 other long-running issues in April 2020.

Our headline findings include:

  • In April 2021, 45% say Covid-19 is one of the top issues facing their country, in line with March levels.
  • This apparent stability overall masks some marked changes at country level. We see large increases in concern about Covid-19 in Chile (+23 points since March), Argentina (+13 points) and Turkey (+11 points).  
  • Meanwhile, concern has fallen most in Israel (-31 points), Great Britain (-8 points) and Italy (-7 points).
  • At 35%, worry about Unemployment at a global level is at the lowest recorded in 12 months, following a period of elevated concern during the pandemic.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of people, according to our global country average, say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction.

1. Covid-19

The countries reporting the highest levels of concern about Covid-19 in April 2021 are Malaysia (65%), Japan (64%) and Peru (60%). This is the seventh month in a row that Malaysia has been the most concerned nation about Covid-19. Japan’s score reflects an increase of 6 percentage points since last month, while Peru (+3) now has the highest proportion of its public worried about the pandemic since June 2020.

There have been month-on-month increases in concern about Coronavirus in many countries, most significantly Chile (+23 points to 53%), Argentina (+13 to 31%) and Turkey (+11 to 38%). Meanwhile, there has been a 31-point decrease in those considering Covid-19 a top concern in Israel, which is now least worried of all nations about the virus.

Covid-19 has become the single greatest concern in four more countries since last month; Chile, India, Poland and South Korea. They join the following list of countries where Coronavirus is currently the biggest area of concern (17 out of 28 in total): Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and the US. It is also the joint-top concern in Spain, along with Unemployment.

2. Unemployment

Unemployment is currently the second greatest worry worldwide; 35% say it is one of the most important issues facing their country today, down 2-points since last month. This is the lowest percentage recorded since April 2020. In May 2020, global concern rose to 42%, starting a period of elevated concern about jobs, likely due to the pandemic.  

Six in ten in South Africa (61%), Italy (60%) and Spain (59%) count unemployment among the most important issues in their country today. It is also the number one worry in Colombia, Italy, South Africa and Turkey.
The largest month-on-month increase in reported concern is seen in Chile (+6 points).

3. Poverty & social inequality

Three in ten (31%) across all countries say Poverty & social inequality is one of the top issues in their country today. The global country average score has remained broadly stable on this measure over the past year.

Russia continues to occupy the top spot when it comes to concern about Poverty & social inequality with 58% of the public selecting this issue. Four in ten in Chile (44%), Colombia (42%) and Poland (40%) also think this is one of the most important issues in their country.

The largest increases in concern recorded for this issue compared to last month can be seen in Brazil (+8 points), Mexico (+6), the Netherlands (also +6) and Peru (+5).

4. Financial/Political Corruption

This is the fourth-ranked global concern in our survey. It finds 30% on average across all countries count it among the big issues they face today.

A 7-point increase in concern in South Africa and a 7-point decline in Russia puts both countries at the top of the table; 57% of the public in each say they are concerned about corruption.

Notable increases in reported worry about corruption this month are seen in South Korea (+10 points) and Saudi Arabia (also +10).

5. Crime & violence

Crime & violence is the fifth greatest worry in April 2021, with one in four (25%) across all countries selecting it as one of the most important issues facing their country.

This month, Crime & violence is the number one concern in Argentina, Israel and Sweden, while Mexicans are currently equally concerned about this and Unemployment.

The largest month-on-month increases in reported worry about Crime & violence are seen in Great Britain (+9), Israel (+8) and the US (+7).

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

Looking at how we feel about where things are heading, the future outlook has soured as 65% (global country average) now say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction – the highest recorded in 5 years.

This rises to 89% in Peru (which held a general election shortly after fieldwork was conducted), making it the most pessimistic nation in terms of where things are heading for the fourth consecutive month. Its Latin American neighbours Colombia (84%) and Chile (82%) make up the three countries currently feeling least positive about the immediate future.  

We see the largest month-on-month increases in people saying things are on the “wrong track” in Germany (+12 points), Belgium (+8), Chile (+7) and Brazil (also +7).  
A large majority in Saudi Arabia (90%) say that things in their country are going in the right direction, and we also see high levels of positivity on this measure in India (63%), Australia (60%), and Malaysia (56%). Opinion is more divided in Canada (50%) and Great Britain (49%).


The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK