32% say that Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country today

As Omicron spreads, Coronavirus returns to its position as the world’s top concern – with Poverty & Social Inequality just behind.

The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
  • Natalie Pearson Ipsos Knowledge Centre, UK
Get in touch

​​​​Key findings:

  • 32% on average say that Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country today (+4 vs. last month) – making it once again the world’s number one worry.
  • The largest month-on-month increases in concern about Covid-19 are seen in Germany (+23 points), the Netherlands (+19) and Belgium (+16).
  • Poverty & Social Inequality is the second top issue this month, just behind Covid-19 with 31%.
  • Inflation sees record-high levels of concern, ranking 7th out of 18 possible issues with 19%.
  • A global country average of 65% say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction – 3 points higher than this time last year.

The final wave of our 28-country What Worries the World survey in 2021 (conducted between 19th November and 3rd December 2021) finds Covid-19 back at the top of our global issues ranking.

Throughout the year, we saw levels of concern about the virus gradually fall until it ceased to be the number one global issue in October. Last month it was in third place with 28%, the lowest score recorded. However, we now see it increase by 4 points to 32% in December 2021.

This is driven by significant jumps in concern about the virus compared to the previous month in a number of countries – especially in Germany (+23), the Netherlands (+19) and Belgium (+16).

These three countries, along with South Korea, join our list of countries where Covid-19 is currently the public’s top concern (alongside Australia, Canada, Japan, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the US).

Poverty & Social Inequality

Poverty and social inequality remains a top global worry this month, down only one point from last wave’s results. It moves to second place only due to the rise in concern about Covid-19. Almost one-third globally (31%) list it as a top issue facing their country today.

Concern is greatest in Russia, where over half (54%) say it is a top worry. This is followed by Colombia (45%) and Brazil (43%).

There are significant drops in the level of concern in the Netherlands (-11 points), Germany (-7 points) and in Peru (-6 points) compared to last month.

Poverty and social inequality is the number one concern in four countries: Russia, Brazil, Japan and France.


Unemployment is the joint-third top worry this month (level with corruption); 28% on average select it as a top issue facing their country.

South Africa remains most concerned about unemployment with six in 10 (63%) listing it as a top worry. It is followed by Spain (50%) and Italy (46%).

Turkey sees a significant increase in concern, up 10 points from last month, while concern falls -8 and -7 points in Italy and Sweden respectively.

December marks the 20th month in a row where unemployment has been the top concern for Italy, and the 9th month running for South Africa. It is also the top concern in India and Spain this month.

Financial/Political Corruption

Financial/political corruption is in joint third place this month, with 28% on average listing it as a top issue for their country today – level with concern about unemployment.

Concern is highest in South Africa, with 57% there reporting concern about corruption – unchanged from last month. Malaysia and Colombia follow closely with 56% and 52% respectively.

The largest increases from last month are seen in Great Britain (+5), alongside Argentina and Mexico (both +4). Meanwhile we record significant decreases in South Korea and the Netherlands (both -6 percentage points).

Corruption remains the top concern for the public in Malaysia, Colombia, and Peru – in line with last month.

Crime & Violence

Crime & violence is the fifth greatest concern in our global issues tracker. Across all counties, it is selected by 27% - a proportion that has remained unchanged for 3 months.

Concern is highest, at 67%, in Sweden – the country consistently most worried about crime. It is followed by South Africa (53%, +2 vs. last month), Mexico (52%, -5), and 50% in Chile, Israel and Peru.

The largest increases in concern about crime and violence are seen in Israel (+13 points) and Peru (+9). Meanwhile, there has been a 10-point decline in worry about this issue in Colombia, which moves from being the 6th most worried to the 8th most worried country.

Special focus: Inflation

This month we take a closer look at inflation, a rising concern in many parts of the world today.

Our What Worries the World survey shows it to be at record-high levels. Across all 28 countries, one in five (19%) on average say that it is one of the most worrying issues facing their country today, putting it at number 7 out of 18 total issues (after healthcare at 22% in 6th).

At the top is Argentina (52%) – the country historically most concerned about inflation. Poland, in second with 47%, has seen a dramatic increase from the 16% recorded in January.

Also looking back to the start of the year, Turkey is up 15pts, Russia 11pts, Canada 26pts, and Brazil 17pts. Peru is up from 4% to 26% and the US from just 2% to 25%.

Also see our global survey on public perceptions of inflation.

Heading in the right or wrong direction?

At the end of 2021, the world is slightly more pessimistic than this time last year. Across the 28 nations surveyed, 65% on average say that things in their country are on the wrong track while 35% think they are heading in the right direction. In December 2020 this stood at 62% and 38%.

This month, Peru has the largest proportion of respondents saying that their country is heading in the wrong direction (88%), replacing Colombia (now 86%) as the most pessimistic country.

Israel sees the largest increase in the public saying things are heading in the right direction (12 points), making it the fifth most optimistic country surveyed. Meanwhile, Italy sees a 9-point rise in those saying things are heading in the right direction.

Elsewhere, those in the Netherlands saying things are on the “wrong track” increases by 12 points, making it the fifth most pessimistic country surveyed.

The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
  • Natalie Pearson Ipsos Knowledge Centre, UK