Unemployment is world's fastest-rising fear - survey

  • 12 December 2011
  • From the section Business
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Media captionIn many countries, unemployment has shot up as a key concern

Unemployment is the world's fastest-rising worry, a BBC World Service survey covering 11,000 people in 23 countries suggests.

The annual poll, called The World Speaks, gave people a list of concerns and asked which they had discussed with friends or family in the past month.

Corruption and poverty still ranked the highest, but unemployment was mentioned by 18% - six times the rate citing it in the first survey in 2009.

The poll was carried out by Globescan.

The growth in concern was found across all countries surveyed, although corruption emerged as the most talked about global concern.

Nearly a quarter of those asked had discussed that topic in some form over the past four weeks.

Young jobless

Next came extreme poverty. One in five had talked about that subject recently.

Issues associated with inflation, such as higher food and energy prices, were on level pegging with unemployment in third place - with both topics mentioned by 18% of those surveyed.

Concern about joblessness seemed to vary by country.

Top of the list was Spain, where 54% of those sampled said they had discussed unemployment recently, an increase of one-third on the previous year's BBC poll.

Spain is at the heart of the debt crisis in the eurozone and has the highest youth unemployment in the region at greater than 40%.

Ghana, Mexico, Nigeria and Turkey were among the other countries where this topic appeared a particular concern, with a third or more of those sampled saying they had discussed the issue in the month before the survey.

One could speculate that growing concern about the lack of jobs is linked to current economic worries, such as financial problems for euro currency and the resulting slowdown of major economies.

But there is no certainty about this.

The first annual survey published in 2009 coincided with possibly even greater economic global turbulence linked to the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Corruption and poverty emerge as hardy perennials of global debate.

All three annual surveys carried out so far have shown these topics to be near the top of the list.

Regional differences

But the latest results show considerable differences between countries in the issues people find important.

In the US, France and Japan - all wealthy, developed nations - the state of the world economy emerged as the main talking point.

By contrast, corruption was the most frequently discussed issue in Nigeria, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria and Peru.

These are all developing nations, most with poor reputations for transparency in government and business.

In another group of developing countries, including China, Russia, Kenya and the Philippines, rising prices for food and energy were the main topic.

In Latin America, however, crime and violence emerged as commonly discussed themes.

Indeed in Brazil, famous for social tensions in its urban slums, along with Ecuador and Mexico, noted for drugs-related killings, crime and violence were the most talked-about subjects.

Changing perceptions

People in developed nations appeared more concerned about the longer-term, less immediate threat associated with climate change than those sampled in poorer, developing economies.

But almost everywhere global warming had slipped down the ranking of issues discussed in the last month.

The topic was the most frequently talked about issue in 10 nations in last year's survey, but this year climate change topped the list only in Germany and Britain.

Fieldwork for the latest poll was carried out between July and September of this year by the polling firm Globescan on behalf of the BBC.

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