These countries are the most optimistic about economic recovery from the pandemic

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Photo by Farzad Mohsenvand
  • China is the most optimistic country when people are asked when they think there will be an economic recovery from the pandemic.

  • By comparison, people in Russia are the most pessimistic.

  • One thing most people seem to agree on is that they expect their governments to take responsibility for leading the return to growth.

More than half of people in China think the economy there has already recovered from the pandemic. That’s one of the headline findings of a survey carried out by Ipsos and the World Economic Forum, between 25 June and 9 July. Altogether, more than 21,500 people in 29 countries were quizzed on their views of post-pandemic economic life.

Some 56% of Chinese respondents said things were already back to where they should be. That number shoots up to 83% when those who think the recovery will have happened within a year are factored in.

In Saudi Arabia too, a majority of people (63%) think the recovery will have happened in a year’s time. There, 25% say the economy has already recovered.

economic recovery
39% believe it will take their economy more than three years to recover from the pandemic. | Image: World Economic Forum-Ipsos

Elsewhere, however, optimism is in shorter supply. Of the 29 countries surveyed, Russia, Colombia, South Africa and Romania are the places where the fewest people expect a swift recovery.

In Russia, just 4% of people think the recovery has happened and just 6% more think things will be better in a year. A large majority (66%) expect to have to wait more than three years for the economy to bounce back.

Between one half and two-thirds of survey respondents in South Africa, Argentina, Romania, Colombia, Hungary, and Poland say they think economic recovery is more than three years away, following the pandemic.

Looking ahead

When it comes to the question of who should assume responsibility for leading a country to economic recovery, the answer given most often by respondents was their government. Averaged across all 29 countries, that was the view of 53% of people. But 48% of people didn’t mention their government at all when thinking about where a recovery might come from, indicating a possible lack of trust in their national leaders.

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economic recovery
Most people think the government should take responsibility when it comes to the COVID-19 economic recovery. | Image: World Economic Forum-Ipsos

In Russia, nine out of 10 people surveyed said the government carries the responsibility for sorting things out. Close behind, other countries where a very large majority felt that way include Hungary (88%), South Korea (86%), China (78%), Malaysia (73%) and Saudi Arabia (70%).

An almost mirror image of those findings came when Ipsos asked whether small businesses should be responsible for the post-pandemic economic recovery. Low numbers of people in Russia (7%), South Korea (10%), Hungary (14%), and Saudi Arabia (19%) thought that was the case. Those countries where the largest numbers of people do think small businesses have a major role to play are all Spanish-speaking.

“The world is at a global turning point where leaders must cooperate, innovate and secure a robust recovery,” said Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, adding that corporations, civil society and governments must work together to address the major challenges facing the globe and that “those that focused on the short-term have been the first to suffer”.

economic recovery
Photo by Farzad Mohsenvand

Reading the signs

The survey also looked at what people think an economic recovery looks and feels like – the signs that will tell them things are getting better. It transpires there are two things that lead people to think things are getting better. The first is when they see people they know being called back to work or getting a new job. An average of 79% of people gave that as their top answer. It was closely followed by seeing new businesses open (78%).

economic recovery
The strongest sign that people use to interpret that things are getting better is seeing people they know being called back to work or getting a new job. | Image: World Economic Forum-Ipsos

Across all 29 countries surveyed, the range of answers citing those two indicators was from 63% to 89%.

An increase in tourism was also mentioned as a key sign of recovery by a global average of 72%. It was highest in China (90%), Saudi Arabia (85%) and South Africa (84%), and lowest in Argentina (52%), Russia (59%) and Colombia (60%).