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Business Journal
What World Leaders Must Know Now
Business Journal

What World Leaders Must Know Now

Is your country on the brink of revolution? Can it create and sustain wealth? A global poll provides crucial answers.

by Jennifer Robison

World leaders -- and business executives -- want to know if countries are succeeding or failing, if their constituents are thriving or suffering, or if their governments are at risk of being toppled by a revolution. Gallup launched its World Poll nearly eight years ago to provide such essential data and insights.

What people are earning or spending doesn't necessarily match what they are thinking.

"We wanted to measure the state of the human condition from the people themselves," says Jon Clifton, a Gallup partner, who notes that the poll -- which gathers data in 160 countries and areas and recently conducted its 1 millionth interview -- gives leaders a scientific window into the thoughts and behaviors of 98% the world's adult population.

A very different story

The World Poll's findings proved particularly salient during the 2011 upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia because the poll captured crucial insights that others missed. GDP per capita was growing in Egypt and Tunisia from 2005 until 2010, and the United Nation's Human Development Index showed a similarly positive trajectory. "Metrics like those suggested that things were getting better," Clifton says.

But the World Poll found something quite different. The percentage of Egyptians that Gallup classifies as thriving dropped from 29% in 2005 to 12% in 2010, and the percentage of Tunisians who were thriving dropped from 24% in 2008 to 14% in 2010. Just before the Arab Spring, Egyptians and Tunisians had well-being rates as low as those in the conflict-ridden Palestinian Territories -- but leaders wouldn't have known that from monitoring GDP metrics.

"The World Poll gave us very different information than the traditional indicators that many leaders are watching," says Clifton. "What people are earning or spending doesn't necessarily match what they are thinking."

Long-term implications

While the cases of Tunisia and Egypt demonstrate why leaders should monitor additional key metrics about a country -- the governments of both countries were forced from power -- World Poll data also point to other long-term implications for countries. There's no statistically significant relationship between GDP and unemployment, for example. The unemployment rate of Guatemala is 4.1%, but more than half of its population lives below the poverty line. That's because just any job isn't enough -- good jobs create a nation's wealth.

The World Poll has identified a good job as one that is at least 30 hours per week for an employer. A country or city will not succeed in creating good jobs unless it's able to attract or foster that type of work. "Your work is a big part of your life," Clifton says. "And that's why it's so important for leaders to track not just the number of people who are out of work but the number of good jobs available. It is probably the most important metric a leader should monitor."

To read more, visit Infographic: Two Powerful Metrics for World Leaders on For complete data sets or custom research from the countries Gallup continually surveys, contact us.

Jennifer Robison is a Senior Editor at Gallup.

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