• A global Ipsos survey reveals what people around the world expect of 2021.
  • More than three-fifths of respondents think most people will still be wearing masks in public a year on.
  • Almost half of those surveyed believe there will be a new pandemic caused by a new virus.
  • While 2020 was viewed as a bad year for the majority of those surveyed, more than two-thirds are optimistic about the year ahead.

Think back to this time last year. The virus that would eventually be dubbed COVID-19 was starting to appear in more and more headlines, but few of us could have predicted the full impact of the pandemic. So what do people think the coming year has in store?

A new survey sheds some light on people’s expectations for the next 12 months.

Ipsos Mori’s ‘Global Advisor 2021 Predictions’ canvassed more than 23,000 adults across 31 global places – including countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North America and South America – between October and November 2020.

Look to the future

One of the survey’s predictions has already come to fruition, confirming the belief of 68% of respondents that a successful vaccine for COVID-19 will be developed. Several have been approved by regulatory bodies in the US, EU and other countries, including those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

Most people were cautious about the pandemic’s ongoing impact, as 61% of those asked thought it likely that most people in their country will continue to wear a mask in public places a year later.

More than half thought it unlikely that life would return to normal after the effects of the pandemic, with two-fifths thinking it unlikely their home country’s economy would fully recover.

a chart showing the predictions for the covid-19 vaccine
Only 30% think the world will become better after the COVID-19 crisis.
Image: IPSOS

In Malaysia, 70% of those taking part thought it likely that a new virus would create another pandemic. More than 60% of people in South Korea, Russia and Turkey shared this view, compared to around a third of respondents in the US, UK and Australia.

Less than a third of those surveyed thought it likely the COVID-19 crisis would change the world for the better.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

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.

Beyond the pandemic

One change brought by the pandemic is the growth in online shopping in many countries, which has boomed in response to lockdown and social distancing restrictions.

Of those surveyed, 57% thought it likely they would spend more buying things online than they do in stores.

Almost two-thirds thought that income inequality in their country will increase. Meanwhile, 40% thought it likely that major global stock markets will crash – confidence was highest in China, with just 22% predicting that outcome.

Overall optimism

Turning to technology, 36% globally said that it’s likely that robots will look like, think like and speak like humans in the next year. More than half, though, disagreed with this view. A fifth of people went further than robots replacing people, stating they thought human cloning will be legalized in some countries.

Climate change is on the minds of many, with 75% predicting average global temperatures will increase in 2021. Small numbers were concerned about other threats, including human extinction (16%), aliens visiting Earth (12%) and the discovery that ghosts really exist (16%).

Despite these threats, real or perceived, overall the Ipsos survey found a good degree of optimism.

While 2020 was a bad year economically for 7 in every 10 participants and their families, 77% were optimistic that the year ahead will be better, with more than half of respondents predicting the global economy will be stronger in 2021 that it was in 2020.