While assessments of national economic conditions are quite negative in many parts of the world, people are generally more positive about their personal finances. At least half in 23 of the 39 countries surveyed say their personal economic situation is good. Overall, people in economically advanced nations and emerging markets are more likely than those from developing countries to describe their personal situations positively.
Among wealthier nations, Canadians, Germans and Australians stand out as especially satisfied with their personal finances. All three also tend to have more positive views about the state of their national economies.
While Americans and the British tend to give negative assessments of national economic conditions, more than six-in-ten describe their personal situations as good.
The economically advanced nations with the most negative evaluations are Italy, Poland, South Korea, Japan and especially Greece – only 15% of Greeks say their personal economic situation is good, the lowest percentage among the 39 nations surveyed.
Looking at countries where trends are available from 2008, there have been significant changes in some European Union nations. The percentage of people describing their circumstances as good has fallen by double digits since 2008 in Poland (-19 points), Spain (-17), and France (-10). At the same time, it has increased by 10 percentage points in Germany.
In nine of the 11 emerging nations polled, more than half say their situation is good. Evaluations are especially positive in Malaysia, Brazil and China.
While personal assessments are generally less positive in developing nations, there are nonetheless several countries where solid majorities rate their personal economic circumstances favorably, including the Philippines, Bolivia, Senegal and Pakistan. In contrast, ratings are especially negative in the Arab nations of Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.
Developing, Emerging Countries Optimistic about Future
People in the poorest countries tend to be the most optimistic about their personal economic future. Across the 14 developing nations, a median of 53% believe their economic situation will improve in the next 12 months, 27% think it will stay the same and only 15% say it will get worse.
More than six-in-ten believe things will get better in four sub-Saharan African nations: Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya. However, fewer than four-in-ten hold this view in four nations at the heart of the Middle East: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.
In emerging markets, views also tend to be optimistic. A median of 52% think their personal economic situation will improve over the next 12 months, while 31% believe it will stay the same and just 10% expect it to worsen.
Brazilians are the most optimistic public surveyed: 88% predict their situation will improve in the coming 12 months. Venezuelan (73% improve), Chinese (71%), Malaysian (63%) and Mexican (61%) respondents are also optimistic. Among emerging nations, Argentines, Turks and Russians are the least likely to say things will improve.
In economically advanced countries, there is relatively little optimism – in fact, there is no advanced economy in which a majority of people expect their situation to improve over the next 12 months.
In Greece, more than half (54%) think their personal economic situation will grow worse. Assessments are also especially grim in France, Italy and Spain. Meanwhile, Americans are the most optimistic, followed by South Koreans, Australians and Canadians.
Questions measuring deprivation highlight the extent to which many people in developing nations struggle to afford life’s basic necessities. Across the 14 developing countries surveyed, a median of 49% say there have been times during the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food for their family. A median of 55% report there have been times when they could not afford health care, and 56% say this about clothing.
Deprivation is especially high in Africa. For instance, at least seven-in-ten Ugandans have been unable to purchase food, health care or clothing in the past year. At least half say the same in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal. Similarly, in emerging market South Africa, more than half report difficulties in buying basic necessities.
But these problems are hardly limited to Africa. In El Salvador and Bolivia, for example, majorities have been unable to afford food, health care or clothing. And at least half say the same in emerging nation Mexico.
And while deprivation levels are much lower in wealthier countries, significant minorities are nonetheless unable to afford food, health care or clothing. More than one-in-five in South Korea, the United States and Greece report being unable to buy these things for their families within the past year.