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People around the World Increasingly Favour Globalization but Worry about Jobs, Poverty and Environment

World Economic Forum Survey of 25,000 Citizens across 25 Countries
1 February 2002 - New York

The largest-ever public opinion poll on globalization, covering countries with 67% of the world’s population, shows that people increasingly favour economic globalization, but they have high expectations in some areas that will be difficult to satisfy. Citizens also have concerns about perceived damaging impacts of globalization.

Conducted in late 2001 as part of the first comprehensive global survey of the post-11 September world, the research reveals that:

  • The majority of people in most countries surveyed expect that more economic globalization will be positive for themselves and their families. Across the world, over six in ten citizens see globalization as beneficial, while one in five sees it as negative.
  • Positive views of globalization have grown over the past year, especially in North America and Europe.
  • Citizens, especially those in poorer countries, have high expectations that globalization will deliver benefits in a number of economic and non-economic areas.
  • However, citizens also believe that globalization will worsen environmental problems and poverty in the world, and reduce the number of jobs in their country.
  • Especially in G-7 countries, most citizens do not believe that poor countries benefit as much as rich countries from free trade and globalization. However, the opposite is true in low GDP countries.

The World Economic Forum poll involved 25,000 in-person or telephone interviews across mainly “Group of 20” countries, and was conducted between October and December 2001 by respected research institutes in each participating country under the leadership of Environics International Ltd of Toronto, Canada.

Most people in 19 of 25 countries surveyed expect that more economic globalization will be positive for themselves and their families. Although more than six in ten citizens worldwide (62%) see globalization as positive, only one in seven is convinced of this. Globalization’s strongest supporters are found in northern Europe, North America and poorer countries in Asia. Conversely, one in five citizens (22%) believes that globalization has negative effects on them personally. Most opposed to globalization, and increasingly so, are people in economically troubled Turkey and Argentina. The accompanying chart provides country-specific findings.

Over the past year, positive views of globalization have grown, especially in North America and Europe. Of the 18 countries where the question was asked in both 2000 and 2001, positive views are up significantly in nine (most notably in Germany and South Korea), and down in five (especially in Turkey).

The majority of those surveyed anticipate improvements on eight of 15 factors surveyed, most notably greater access to world markets, cheaper goods, improved cultural life, a better quality of life, strengthened human rights, a more robust national economy and a higher personal income.

However, significant proportions of people are concerned that globalization will have a detrimental impact in a number of other areas, most notably environmental quality, poverty and the number of jobs available, but also the gap between rich and poor, world peace and stability, workers’ rights and the quality of jobs. The biggest concern is environment, with the majority of people in ten countries, including much of Europe, foreseeing environmental degradation resulting from increased globalization.

Citizens do not believe that poor countries benefit as much as rich countries from free trade and globalization. Nearly one in two citizens across the 25 countries surveyed disagrees with the statement that “globalization benefits poor countries as much as rich countries.” This view is especially pronounced in G-7 countries where six in ten disagree; however, in the low GDP countries surveyed, most citizens agree that poor countries benefit equally.

There remains significant support for peaceful anti-globalization protesters. Almost one in two citizens overall and majorities in half of the 25 countries surveyed “support people who take part in peaceful demonstrations against globalization because they are supporting my interests.” Support in the United States is somewhat muted (four in ten), down ten points from just prior to 11 September.

In commenting on the poll’s findings, Charles McLean, Director of Communications at the World Economic Forum, said: “Both sides of the globalization debate will find things to welcome and to be concerned about in these research results. For our part, the Forum is pleased to have brought the views of average citizens from around the world into the debate.” He went on to say, “The Forum’s members should see this survey as evidence of growing appreciation of globalization’s benefits. However, they should also see this as a time of considerable challenge and great expectations on the part of the public.”

Richard Samans, Director of Global Issues at the World Economic Forum, said: “The public is still coming to judgement on important aspects of globalization. While the globalization agenda has advanced its popular mandate over the past year, this research suggests it faces a number of tough challenges. Fortunately, this year’s international agenda, including important UN conferences in Monterrey, Mexico, and Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as the ‘Group of Eight’ Summit in Canada, presents leaders with excellent opportunities to tackle the most pressing issues – poverty, job growth, market access and environmental protection. Major commitments and actions in these areas will be needed to solidify public support for global integration.”

According to Doug Miller, President of Environics International, “In this post-11 September world, citizens in the richest countries feel new urgency to ensure that those in the poorest countries gain some tangible advantage from globalization. Society may be at an historic moment when the importance of addressing global poverty is matched by the self-interest, the willingness and the capacity to do so. Companies need to be part of this. Our research shows that consumers expect global companies to be part of implementing global solutions in the social and environmental realms, as well as the economic sphere. By playing active, yet appropriate, roles in addressing world problems, global companies can help reduce distrust of their motives, gain important brand equity and help solidify positive views of globalization.”

Each national survey was based on a representative sample of about 1,000 adults and was conducted in-home or by telephone between October and December 2001 as part of Environics’ annual 25-nation
Global Issues Monitor survey. National findings are accurate to within + or – 3%, 19 times out of 20.

The World Economic Forum, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is an independent organization committed to improving the state of the world. Funded by the contributions of 1,000 of the world's foremost corporations, the Forum acts in the spirit of entrepreneurship in the global public interest to further economic growth and social progress. The Forum serves its members and society by creating partnerships between and among business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society to define, discuss and advance key issues on the global agenda.

Incorporated in 1971 as a foundation, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit, and is tied to no political, partisan or national interests. In 1995 the Forum was awarded NGO consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

February 3, 2001

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