Health and Healthcare Systems

Majority of workers worldwide back COVID-19 vaccine mandates for the workplace

Vaccine mandates: A medical worker prepares a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during an initiative aimed at providing third doses to senior citizens, in Mexico City, Mexico

78% of people globally back vaccine mandates for the workplace. Image: REUTERS/LUIS CORTES

Douglas Broom
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Pandemic Preparedness and Response

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  • Around the world, most workers support workplace vaccine mandates and are willing to be vaccinated to keep their jobs, according to a World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey.
  • Most think their co-workers should be compelled to be vaccinated, as well.
  • A minority would try to get around the rules or quit if vaccine mandates came in.

Almost 8 out of 10 of the world’s workers would accept vaccine mandates in order to keep their jobs, according to an Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum.

The poll of more than 14,000 employees in 33 countries found that 78% are in favour of vaccine mandates in the workplace. Offered a choice between vaccination or frequent testing as a condition of working, most people (68%) would opt for the jab.

Only 12% of those surveyed for COVID and the Workplace said they preferred the idea of ongoing regular testing.

Around one in 10 (9%) said if testing or vaccine mandates were introduced at their workplace they would find a way to avoid both options and still keep their jobs. Just one in 20 (5%) said they would quit and find another job under these circumstances.

a chart showing that most employees support precautionary COVID-safe measures in the workplace.
Most employees support testing, masking and vaccine mandates. Image: Ipsos

Conversely, almost two-fifths (38%) said they would be comfortable working in an environment with no testing, masking or vaccine mandates. A further third (31%) of people said this would make them feel uncomfortable but they would still go to work, while a quarter said they would work remotely.

More women than men were strongly opposed to the removal of workplace precautions like vaccine mandates, a third of whom said they would either quit or work remotely if no safeguards were in place. Almost two-fifths (38%) of business owners and 36% of senior managers agreed with this stance.

a chart showing the different views on what would signal the end of the pandemic
8% of respondents said the pandemic had already ended. Image: Ipsos

Pandemic perspectives

Although the survey was conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant, views on what might bring about an end to the pandemic varied significantly. While one-fifth of those surveyed (20%) believed it would be over when 75% of their country’s population was vaccinated, 8% said they thought it had ended already.

More than an eighth (14%) of respondents say they don’t think the pandemic will ever end, while 27% said it would be more than a year before things return to normal. A quarter (25%) thought this would happen within the next year, a fifth within the next six months, and 14% believed they were already living a normal life.

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Pessimism about the future with COVID-19 was spread fairly evenly across genders and age groups, irrespective of income and educational level. People in Hungary and Russia were the most negative of the 33 countries surveyed, while those with the most positive outlook on the situation were from Brazil, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

a chart showing the different expectations about when life will return to a pre-covid normal
Most people believe the pandemic will come to an end, if uncertain of how and when. Image: Ipsos

The future of working life

Despite continuing concerns about COVID-19 safety, the number of people returning to their workplace after a period of home working rose by 5% across the world between June and November 2021, when the poll was taken. The highest rates of returnees were found in Argentina (up by 15%) and Chile (up by 13%).

The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020 highlighted that digitalization would enable permanent remote working for two-fifths (44%) of the global workforce in the future, but said workers would need support overcoming the “significant wellbeing challenges” of remote working.

The pandemic has shown that “a new hybrid way of working” - combining office and remote working - is possible on a greater scale than imagined, the report added. But it said employers remained sceptical, with only 15% believing it would have a neutral or positive impact on productivity.

“Staying the course with safety measures that we know make a difference - vaccines, masks, testing - is incredibly important as we navigate this complex pandemic journey,” said Genya Daya, Acting Head, Health & Healthcare, World Economic Forum.

“We know that employers have had to assume many new responsibilities with regard to worker health and wellbeing, and we count on them as a trusted partner in this journey.”

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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