After months of street protests that had culminated in violence, the Ukrainian parliament voted to impeach President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22nd. Yanukovych had previously sacrificed closer ties with Europe in favour of a pro-Moscow stance and his removal from power provoked a strong military, diplomatic and economic backlash from Russia, as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s project of a ‘Eurasian Union’ of former Soviet states to rival the EU was dealt a potentially terminal blow. But Russian unease is also … “Departure of Ukraine’s Yanukovych Holds Lessons for Putin”
With the airwaves often dominated by discussion of economic indicators and GDP, a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that this was the only valid measure of a country’s development. However, nearly seven in ten citizens across eleven countries think that a broader measure—one incorporating health, environmental, and social statistics—should be used instead of GDP to measure national progress. Drawn from our most recent work with Ethical Markets, the ICAEW, and business think-tank Tomorrow’s Company, these figures from 11 … “Consensus Remains Among Global Public on the Need to go “Beyond GDP””
The recent announcement by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that the Eurozone crisis was at an end prompted relief in some quarters, but also disbelief. With record joblessness, particularly among the young, and near-depression conditions across much of southern Europe, many feel that Europe’s problems are far from over. GlobeScan’s 2012 polling data illustrates that concern about joblessness remains acute across the continent—and also translates into expectations for companies. In Spain—where half of young people are unemployed—more than nine … “Job creation seen to be at the heart of companies’ social role, particularly in times of crisis”
With European ministers meeting this week to hammer out a deal on reduction of Greece’s debt, and persistent rumours of bailouts for some others in the Mediterranean region, Europe’s economic crisis continues to feature prominently in the news agenda. As GlobeScan’s most recent opinion polling shows, this clearly reflects the worries of its citizens. Spanish citizens best encapsulate the crisis narrative, with unemployment, the economy and political problems cited most often as the most pressing problems facing the country. Here, … “Economic problems and unemployment dominate global concerns”
With figures released this week indicating that the Eurozone has tipped back into recession, companies across the continent are desperately seeking to maintain their market share and revenues, even as household budgets slide. In August, Unilever’s head of European operations, Jan Zijderveld said “poverty is returning to Europe” and that companies were going to have to learn to adjust to that reality. GlobeScan’s most recent public attitudes tracking certainly shows that, while economic concern may have retreated from its 2008 … “Opportunity among the bleak times for business in Europe?”
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Britain this week, she brought a plea for greater British engagement with Europe. Since Prime Minister David Cameron vetoed moves towards a new European treaty last December, the Eurozone has agreed greater steps toward political and economic union as it battles to save its currency, even as British parliamentarians have called for a reduction in the EU’s budget—illustrating the increasingly Euroskeptic tone of political discourse in the UK. In such an environment, commentators … “Brixit—Is Britain a Mid-Atlantic Island, or a Part of Europe?”
Twenty years after the collapse of the USSR, Russia continues to present a difficult business environment, with an economy dominated by an elite circle close to the seat of political power. For foreign companies, navigating the nuances of the Russian system can prove particularly challenging, and GlobeScan’s latest polling demonstrates a large degree of social alienation, which could make conditions for foreign investment yet more difficult. In 2012, more Russians feel that economic wellbeing has improved over the past 20 … “Russia: Disenfranchisement, distrust—and opportunity”
Since the nadir of the global financial crisis in 2008–2009, there has been at least some degree of recovery across most of the global economy. Yet the financial situation in Spain remains precarious, and Spain’s problems, along with those of Greece, Italy, and Portugal, risk dragging Europe and the world back into recession. Meanwhile the Spanish public, left reeling by an economic crisis blamed in large part on corporate bad behaviour, expect ever higher standards of corporate responsibility from their banks.
GlobeScan’s most recent opinion tracking suggests that while the Spanish—and global citizens in general—feel that companies have extensive responsibilities to society, they do not believe that banks, often seen as the sector with most to blame for the world’s continuing economic problems, are meeting those responsibilities. Ratings of the banks’ approach to corporate responsibility were falling from already low levels by 2003, and this fall has accelerated through the crisis, with attitudes in Spain worsening even more rapidly than those in many other countries, as the extent of the financial sector’s involvement in the crisis—and particularly the role of Spain’s poorly regulated cajas—has become apparent.
However, the proportion of people in Spain who expect companies to meet certain social and environmental standards has risen throughout the crisis. This creates a difficult situation for bankers and policymakers alike. Banks’ focus in current circumstances is likely to be on survival rather than meeting these broad social expectations. Governments, meanwhile, are already committed to the politically unpopular but economically necessary strategy of propping up the institutions blamed for the crisis in the first place, and may find themselves courting public resentment if they use taxpayers’ funds to guarantee an industry that is widely considered to flout social and corporate norms.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
Three weeks ago, our featured finding looked at the despair and anger in Greece, the hardest-hit of Europe’s crisis stricken countries. This week, we look at the situation in Germany, the economic engine at the heart of Europe—a fellow Eurozone nation, but one facing very different challenges.
Germans’ faith in their institutions, for one thing, seems to be fairly resilient. In 2012, 38 percent of people say they trust their national government to operate in the best interest of society, less than for national and global companies (48% and 41% respectively) or the press (42%). German levels of trust in these institutions are thus higher than those of fellow Eurozone members Spain and France. If institutional trust has remained more robust in Germany since the crisis, it is hard not to conclude that a renewed sense of national self-confidence emerging from Germany’s seeming economic resilience, its government’s hardline position towards Europe’s debtor states, and its newly assertive European leadership position have all been factors.
Nonetheless, as in other developed economies, optimism about the long term is in short supply—when people were asked this year if they thought their children and grandchildren would have a better quality of life, fewer than three in ten Germans (28%) agreed, down eight points since 2007. Yet unlike Greece, just 25 percent feel things have become worse economically in the two decades since reunification, and only 27 percent feel society has become less equal and less healthy: 37 percent of Germans feel things have got better for both measures. Reflecting these levels of social and economic satisfaction, 35 percent of Germans—roughly the global average—believe that the rich deserve their wealth. This has risen six points since 2009.
A sense of vindication of Germany’s economic and social model is likely to be a key factor behind these figures, even if its current mini-boom is less spectacular than Greece’s bust. The challenge for German policy makers will be to maintain the level of social and economic cohesion in the face of the growing storm outside the country’s borders; for investors, the challenge will be to hold their nerve.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
In the week that Greece presented its latest austerity budget to international creditors, GlobeScan’s latest analysis of Greek public opinion bears out the assessment of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who recently compared Greece’s situation to that of Depression-era America.
Just 20 percent of Greeks in our latest survey express any faith that the lives of their children and grandchildren will be better than their own. Furthermore, 77 percent feel that economic well-being has worsened over the last 20 years, while 71 percent feel the move to healthier and more equitable societies over the same period had gone backwards. Looking ahead, just 23 percent believe that economic well-being will improve over the next 20 years.
The despair that Greeks feel about the future is matched by their contempt for elites. Just 9 percent of Greeks believe that the rich deserve their wealth, and only 27 percent trust Greekcompanies to act in the best interests of society. Trust in multinational companies is lower still, at 21 percent, while fewer than one in five (18%) has any trust in the Greek government to act in the best interests of society.
These levels of social pessimism, resentment towards wealth and business, and anger toward the political class raise questions about how long the status quo and political centre in Greece can be maintained, especially in light of the rise of the Golden Dawn and SYRIZA groupings. With many of the options seen as most likely to contain the Eurozone crisis off the political table for now, New Democracy and Antonis Samaras will be lucky to avoid the fate of PASOK, whose share of the vote collapsed after they pushed this year’s bailout.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012