What Worries the World - November 2021

Economic issues now top the world’s worry list as Coronavirus concern continues to decline in many parts of the world.

The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
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The November 2021 wave of our 28-country What Worries the World survey finds the ranking of issues that people find most worrying in their country today looking significantly different to earlier in the pandemic. The proportion mentioning Covid as a major concern facing their country stands at the lowest level since its inclusion in the survey 18 months ago.

Coronavirus no longer occupies the top spot following 18 months as the leading concern between April 2020 and September 2021. For the second consecutive month, Poverty and social inequality is the number one global worry. This is to some extent a re-emergence of the old order, before the pandemic hit, which involved a number of issues (as opposed to a single one) preoccupying people around the world. During this time, as we now see again, issues around money, inequality and jobs feature highly.

Further down in our issues ranking, one in five (21%) also say that Healthcare is a big issue facing their country today. Next in the list are Inflation (18%), Taxes (17%), Education and Climate change (both 16%).

Issue focus – Poverty/social inequality

Poverty & social inequality is number one in our issues ranking, according to our 28-country average. One-third (32%) say this is one of the top issues facing their country today.

Russia leads the ranking with 52% concerned about this, followed by Colombia (47%), then Hungary (44%), Brazil (43%) and Turkey (also 43%).

There have been moderate increases in levels of concern since last month in Turkey (+5) and Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, and Poland (all +4).

We find Poverty & social inequality is the number one concern in four of our 28 countries: Russia, Brazil, Turkey, and Germany.


Unemployment is the second greatest worry worldwide, with three in 10 (30%) on average counting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today.

South Africa is once again the country most concerned about unemployment with two-thirds (66%) selecting this as a top worry. Next are Spain (56%), Italy (53%) and South Korea (50%).

Sweden and Belgium see the largest increases in concern about unemployment (+4 in both), while it falls by 11 points in Turkey and 10 points in Saudi Arabia compared to October 2021.

Unemployment is the top concern in five countries this month: South Africa, Spain, Italy, South Africa, and India.


Coronavirus was the world’s top worry between April 2020 – September 2021, but in November 2021 we see it in third position in our issues ranking with a global country average score of 28%: the lowest recorded since we began tracking it. This was 8 points higher at 36% just two months ago before falling to 29% in October 2021.

The largest month-on-month increases in concern are seen in the Netherlands and Belgium (both up by 12 percentage points). Meanwhile, it falls by 14 points in Israel.

Malaysia sees another significant drop in reported concern about Coronavirus (-13 points, following a 10-point decline last month). Although it remains the country most worried about the virus, this month marks the lowest scores for Covid concern in Malaysia and Japan (as well as 6 more countries) since the issue was introduced.

Covid-19 is still the top concern in 6 countries: Japan, Australia, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the US.

Financial/political corruption

With 28% on average across all countries saying that Financial/ Political corruption is an important issue for their country today, this ranks as the third greatest concern today – level with Covid-19.

South Africans show the highest levels of concern (57%), followed by Malaysia (54%) and Colombia (50%). Peru and Hungary are just behind Colombia with 49% and 48% respectively.

The largest month-on-month increases are seen in Israel (+5), Australia (+4), Malaysia (+4) while the greatest declines are recorded in Argentina and Turkey (-7 in both).

Corruption is the number one concern in Malaysia, Colombia, and Peru today.

Crime & violence

Crime & violence is considered one of the most important issues today by an average of 27% of people across 28 countries, making this our fifth greatest global worry.

The three countries most concerned about crime and violence (Sweden, Mexico and South Africa) remain unchanged. South Africans are comparatively more concerned about unemployment, but crime is the number one issue selected by those in Chile, France and Israel.

Argentina sees the largest month-on-month percentage point increase in this wave (+8 points to 47%). In 5th place is Chile, following a 5-point increase to 5th place at 46%.

Climate change

At the time of the COP26 conference, we recorded 16% on average across all countries saying that climate change is among the most important issues facing their country today – up just 1 percentage point since last month.

This is ranked 9th in our list of 18 issues – joint with education, and just behind taxes (17%) and inflation (18%).

The 5 countries most worried about climate change are Germany (32%), Canada (31%), Australia (30%), Great Britain (30%) and Belgium (28%). Also with 25% selecting this issue are France, the Netherlands and the US.

Concern has picked up most in Belgium and Sweden since last month (+4 in both).

In addition to the 16% who consider climate change to be a top issue facing their country today, 9% select “threats against the environment” – rising to 19% in Germany, 15% in Sweden, and 14% in South Korea. This issue ranks 13th in our full list of 18 worries.

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

In terms of how people feel about the future, we can see that almost two-thirds (65%) across all 28 countries surveyed say that things in their country are on the wrong track, while 35% say they are heading in the right direction – a proportion that has remained stable over the past year.

Colombia has the largest proportion of respondents saying that their country is heading in the wrong direction (87%) and has been in this position for 7 consecutive months. Completing the three most pessimistic countries are Peru (84%) and South Africa (83%).

Malaysia sees the largest increase in the proportion of the public saying the country is on the wrong track (-10), but it is still the fourth most optimistic country surveyed.

Elsewhere, there is a 7-point increase in “wrong track” sentiment in Italy (66%) and a 5-point increase in South Africa (83%).

Ipsos’ What Worries the World survey is conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.
19,021 online interviews were conducted between October 22nd 2021 and November 5th 2021 among adults aged 18-74 in the US, South Africa, Turkey, Israel and Canada and age 16-74 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK