Global Trends 2020

If you live in America, Western Europe or most other established markets…

The overall view in mature economies is relatively negative. People are pessimistic about the future of their country.

When it comes to globalisation they are either divided or negative, reflecting widespread feelings in many western European countries and the US about being ‘left behind’, and having seen real wages stagnate or fall. In particular Western European nations, including Britain, France and Spain are the most pessimistic. Whether it’s their economy, or the chances of the next generation to own a home, or the future of their health system, they expect deterioration.

However, living in a mature economy may have some benefits. First, people feel under less personal pressure to succeed than in developing economies (which often have a much more minimal or non-existent welfare system). Whereas Brazilians, Indians and Mexicans say fulfilment comes from a prominent position at work, in Europe and America far fewer people see life as being all about work.

In the West, people tend to be much less overtly materialist – now of course it may be easier to ‘want’ less if you already have a lot – but fewer people in Western Europe or America agree they measure their success by the things they own.

One solution for the West – given relative affluence – is to rediscover traditional religion or philosophy. However western Europeans, feeling pessimistic about the future, are much less likely than more optimistic countries to say they would like a more spiritual dimension in their lives (c 40% or less in Britain, France, Germany versus over 80% in more optimistic India, China and Indonesia). The challenge here is that what has replaced traditional religion in many Western societies – what Yuval Noah Harari calls ‘humanism’ in 2016’s Homo Deus – does not seem to guarantee happiness.

If you live in China, Indonesia, India or any other fast growing economy…

In Asia the world looks very different than it does in the West – here most people feel that globalisation has benefited their country.

They expect to be better off in future, and most are optimistic about their young people’s futures. They are far more likely than any western country (except Canada) to feel optimistic about their country.

There are some downsides – they feel under pressure to make money and be successful – especially in China, India, and South Africa. But they value success so much that they say are willing to completely change how they live to achieve it. Of course, moving from what many in the West would regard as virtual starvation (c. US$2,000 per capita GDP in China in 2005) to incomes that they would merely regard as miserable (c. US$8,000 in 2016) might explain why many in emerging economies are keen to see further growth and make great personal efforts to achieve it.

Overall, as we see throughout this analysis, country matters more than generational cohort. Markets – even those adjacent to each other – are not always alike when it comes to understanding consumer and citizen sentiment, but the prevailing media narrative in the West, of decline and fragmentation, is literally a world away from connected citizens in India and Indonesia, who see a bright future.

Ben Page
Chief Executive, Ipsos MORI | @benatipsosmori

The Future of Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people manage their health. It has challenged our medical systems and driven demand for new solutions. However, our data suggests these changes are not new but rather an acceleration of existing trends.