Pandemic Risk Climbs on World Economic Forum Regional Risks Survey

Blue globe with wire cage around it and flags of countries hovering around the middle of the globe

October 09, 2020 |

Blue globe with wire cage around it and flags of countries hovering around the middle of the globe

Pandemic fears were clearly on the minds of business leaders surveyed for the World Economic Forum's (WEF) newly released Regional Risks for Doing Business 2020 report.

With the COVID-19 pandemic advancing as the survey was conducted during the first half of the year, the spread of infectious disease made the largest move in the risk rankings in this year's WEF survey, jumping 28 spots with 32.0 percent of respondents citing it as the top risk and ranking it second globally in this year's survey behind unemployment or underemployment, which was cited by 34.5 percent of respondents.

Rounding out the top 5 risks globally were fiscal crises, cited by 26.5 percent of respondents, cyber attacks, selected by 26.1 percent, and profound social instability, also mentioned by 26.1 percent of those surveyed.

While the spread of infectious disease also ranked second among North American leaders surveyed, cited by 31.1 percent, cyber attacks were the top risk concern in the region, selected by 54.0 percent. Other risks in the North American top 5 were data fraud or theft, 28.4 percent, natural catastrophes, 21.9 percent, and asset bubble, 21.7 percent.

Leaders in Europe placed the spread of infectious disease in the top spot, with 38.2 percent choosing it as the top risk. Others in the European top 5 included cyber attacks, 37.0 percent, unemployment or underemployment, 31.0 percent, fiscal crises, 29.0 percent, and asset bubble, 25.7 percent.

In a statement, the WEF noted that climate-related risks are growing concerns for leaders in every region. The organization reported that all 5 environmental risks included in the survey—biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, natural catastrophes, extreme weather events, human-made environmental catastrophes, and failure of climate-change adaptation—were among the top 10 fastest-rising risks in this year's survey.

The WEF Executive Opinion Survey, conducted from January to June, included responses from 12,012 business leaders in 127 countries who were asked to identify the top risks to doing business in their countries over the next decade. This year's survey was developed in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and the Zurich Insurance Group.

October 09, 2020