The 16th edition of the Global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum with support from Marsh McLennan, highlights the disruptive implications of major risks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, that may reshape our world in 2021 and over the next decade. The report draws on the survey results from nearly 700 experts and decision-makers globally who were asked to rank their top concerns in terms of likelihood and impact.
The immediate human and economic cost of COVID-19 is severe. It threatens to scale back years of progress on reducing poverty and inequality and to further weaken social cohesion and global cooperation. Job losses, a widening digital divide, disrupted social interactions, and abrupt shifts in markets could lead to dire consequences and lost opportunities for large parts of the global population. The ramifications—in the form of social unrest, political fragmentation and geopolitical tensions—will shape the effectiveness of our responses to the other key threats of the next decade: cyberattacks, weapons of mass destruction and, most notably, climate change.
In the Global Risks Report 2021, we share the results of the latest Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS), followed by analysis of growing social, economic and industrial divisions, their interconnections, and their implications on our ability to resolve major global risks requiring societal cohesion and global cooperation. We conclude the report with proposals for enhancing resilience, drawing from the lessons of the pandemic as well as historical risk analysis.
Widening digital gaps
Digitalization – extraordinarily accelerated by the pandemic – is widening the digital gap between individuals and across countries, thereby aggravating existing inequalities, polarization, and regulatory uncertainties.
Youth are facing a grim economic outlook characterized by unresolved challenges from The Great Recession and opportunities robbed by the current one, leading to a deep sense of anxiety that can boil over into anger, backlashes, and societal upheaval.
Middle powers in a fraught geopolitical landscape
As the geopolitical landscape continues to be shaped by the US-China rivalry, the chance for meaningful multilateral partnerships led by middle powers to tackle important global challenges has diminished.
Intensifying pressures on businesses
A disorderly industrial shakeout is currently underway, with businesses under increasing pressures from inward-looking national agendas, greater market concentration, and popular scrutiny and volatility. A creative recovery with public-private partnerships under the right governance frameworks is needed.