Joblessness, Inequality the New Normal as Geopolitical Trends Climb Global Agenda

  • world economic forumOutlook on the Global Agenda 2015 finds income inequality and jobless growth the most significant concerns for leaders
  • Geostrategic competition and nationalism are confounding crises for many leaders
  • Pollution, severe weather and water stress top experts’ environmental concerns
  • Download the full report here

Geneva, Switzerland, 7 November 2014 – Deepening income inequality and jobless growth head the Top 10 trends for 2015, according to the Outlook on the Global Agenda, which is published today. These long-standing economic challenges are joined in this year’s survey by growing political and environmental concerns.

The trends are based on a survey of almost 1,800 experts from the Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils as well as other communities within the World Economic Forum on what they believe will preoccupy leaders over the coming 12-18 months.

The Top 10 Trends for 2015 are:

  1. Deepening income inequality
  2. Persistent jobless growth
  3. Lack of leadership
  4. Rising geostrategic competition
  5. Weakening of representative democracy
  6. Rising pollution in the developing world
  7. Increasing occurrence of severe weather events
  8. Intensifying nationalism
  9. Increasing water stress
  10. Growing importance of health in the economy

The prominence of inequality and unemployment at the top of the list signifies that they are viewed even more severely than in previous years, with stagnating wages contributing to a vicious cycle of entrenched inequality through suppressed growth and employment prospects.

However, economic challenges are not the only concern. Two trends that have not appeared in the Outlook since its launch in 2010 are the rise of geostrategic competition (4th) and intensifying nationalism (8th). This suggests both an increasing fragmentation of international politics and a backlash against globalization among populations.

The growing severity of these economic and political trends in the eyes of the Outlook survey respondents perhaps explains the rising prominence of Lack of Leadership as a trend for 2015. It has climbed from 7th last year to 3rd for 2015.

However, the challenges facing leaders are not limited to economics and politics alone, but are also environmental. Experts flagged rising pollution in the developing world (6th), increasing occurrence of severe weather events (7th) and increasing water stress as severe concerns. All of them have the potential to inflict further social, economic and political instability globally.

Rounding out the Top 10 trends is an opportunity as well as a challenge. The increasing importance of health in the economy is indicative of the symbiotic link between a healthy population and a healthy economy. It also highlights the difficulties many health systems face adapting to demographic change, rises in non-communicable diseases as well as the wider threat from pandemics and other outbreaks of infectious diseases. However, it also represents an opportunity for leaders, with technology opening up possibilities for better, more cost effective healthcare, which could in turn lead to sustainable economic growth and greater prosperity.

“The global leadership crisis is a trend which cuts across all the other issues. The danger is that instead of innovating and collaborating to tackle shared challenges, nations and leaders will seek answers through isolationism, nationalist rhetoric and the old paradigms of geopolitical power play,” said Martina Larkin, Senior Director, Head of Global Knowledge Networks, World Economic Forum.

“Never before has the need to find new solutions to shared problems been so clear – if only we were able to organize ourselves more effectively. Today’s challenges, which are global in scope, heavily interlinked in nature and critical in urgency, will only be addressed through greater understanding and stronger collaboration by all stakeholders,” said Espen Barth Eide, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.


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