• Coronavirus remains top global concern in May, according to a monthly Ipsos poll.
  • But unemployment takes the place of COVID-19 as the chief worry in six countries.
  • Concern about joblessness spikes to five-year high.

Unemployment worries spiked to a five-year high in May, as the coronavirus crisis moved into its next phase.

While COVID-19 remained the most frequently cited concern according to a monthly poll by Ipsos, unemployment came second, and surpassed the pandemic to take the top spot in six countries.

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The top 5 global concerns.
Image: IPSOS

Damaged job markets

Policymakers who initially focused on containing the human impact of the pandemic are now turning their attention to the economic damage caused by lockdowns and other measures that brought much of the global economy to a standstill. Global economic activity will probably fall 6% in 2020, according to forecasts from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while a measure of unemployment will climb to 9.2%, from 5.4% in 2019.

“The recovery, after an initial, rapid resumption of activity, will take a long time to bring output back to pre-pandemic levels, and the crisis will leave long-lasting scars,” the OECD says. “Job losses in the most affected sectors, such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment, will particularly hit low-skilled, young and informal workers.”

Unsurprisingly, the highest levels of concern about unemployment were found in some of the countries that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. In Spain, 66% of those surveyed said it was their main worry, followed by Italy (65%), Ipsos said. Global concern about joblessness rose to 42%, the highest level recorded for five years, the data shows.

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Top concerns among Italian citizens.
Image: IPSOS

While coronavirus remained the biggest concern, worries about it did recede compared with April. Globally, 55% cited the pandemic as their main concern in May, down eight percentage points from the previous month. Worry was highest in Malaysia, with 74% citing it as their ultimate concern, followed by Japan on 73% and Great Britain on 71%.

COVID-19 was the greatest concern for 18 of the 27 surveyed nations, overtaken by unemployment in Argentina, Italy, South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Turkey. The survey was conducted among adults in 27 countries around the world between 24 April and 8 May.

concern survey study global worries citizen health education climate change taxes recession Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Top concerns among American citizens.
Image: IPSOS

Time to reset

In the world’s largest economy, the United States, coronavirus was still the top concern, at 61%, followed by unemployment at 40%. While official data showed the US unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, down from 14.7% in April, economists told the BBC that they expect the market to remain challenging, with the unemployment rate likely to be around 10% at the end of the year – comparable to the peak following the financial crisis of 2008.

The Ipsos data underscores the need for global cooperation to stave off the worst consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as outlined in the World Economic Forum’s plan for a Great Reset.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications - a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

The Great Reset is a commitment to jointly and urgently build the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable and resilient post-COVID future.