People in Global South more optimistic about future than those in the West

The Priority Report also shows respondents in every country polled are most concerned about the rising cost of living

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People living in emerging countries are far more optimistic about the future than those in high-income nations, a survey reveals.

The Priority Report, released on Wednesday, polled 130,000 people aged 18 and above in 13 countries and found that respondents in Europe, the US and Japan felt things in their lives and around the world were mostly “on the wrong track”.

Respondents in emerging countries, including Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, shared similar views to those in high-income nations, while people in Saudi Arabia, China, and India said they felt things were “on the right track”. Opinions in Morocco were almost evenly split.

The survey, conducted by market research company Ipsos, was commissioned by the Future Investment Initiative Institute, a non-profit organisation run by Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund.

It noted a direct correlation between respondents' optimism about their country's future and their nation's GDP growth between 2016 -2021.

Respondents in countries including Saudi Arabia, China and India, which all recorded increases in annual GDP, were more optimistic about the future.

About 91 per cent of respondents in China said things in their country were generally on the right track. The response comes as China's economy continues to grow ― albeit at the slowest pace since the Covid-19 pandemic.

At least 80 per cent in Saudi Arabia said they felt things were on the right track in their country. According to the International Monetary Fund, Saudi Arabia's economy is likely to grow at the quickest pace in a decade and will probably be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies this year.

Saudi and expatriate bikers celebrate the country's National Day in Riyadh on Friday. AFP

Rising cost of living is among the greatest concerns

The biggest concern across the 13 countries surveyed was the increase in the cost of living.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said the price of food products was their biggest financial concern, followed by rising rates of inflation.

“Cost of living, energy bills spiralling out of control, everything going up in price,” said a female UK resident polled.

The price of food was also cited as people's greatest concern in Saudi Arabia and China, countries that have been projected to be among the fastest-growing economies in the near future.

Men and women equally said that living costs were their biggest worry, indicating that both genders shared the burden of costs around the globe.

However, 84 per cent of respondents said they felt satisfied with their ability to obtain enough food ― in high-income and emerging economies, indicating that the financial situation is not as dire as one might have thought.

Climate change and pollution a high priority among emerging nations

For most developed, or high-income, countries, issues such as the rising cost of living and increased social inequality are of almost equal concern to climate change.

Developing countries, meanwhile, which are disproportionately affected by climate change, are most concerned about the environmental crisis.

Almost half of respondents in India, 47 per cent, said issues surrounding climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity are the highest priority for future generations and the planet.

India is one of the nations most affected by climate change, with monsoon rains wreaking havoc in parts of the country this year.

In July, experts said the exceptionally heavy rainfall, which led to flooding and landslides that killed at least 500 people and displaced thousands in regions across India during this year's monsoon season (July to September) was symptomatic of climate change and global warming.

Children play in a waterlogged slum after heavy rains in Bangalore.  AFP

More than half of respondents in China, 58 per cent, said climate change was the most important issue future generations would have to contend with.

This summer, China suffered the most severe heatwave yet recorded in the country, affecting energy, water supplies and production across the country. Temperatures as high as 45ºC were recorded in Sichuan province ― the highest yet seen outside the predominantly desert region of Xinjiang.

China is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide gas in the world, after the US.

Updated: September 23, 2022, 12:41 PM