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World Pessimistic About Job Prospects

World Pessimistic About Job Prospects

by Melanie Standish and Gale Muller

This article is the first in a series exploring worldwide perceptions of pre- and post-recession local job availability.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most of the world was pessimistic about the job market last year, according to Gallup surveys conducted in 146 countries in 2011. Fifty-seven percent of adults worldwide, on average, said it was a bad time to find a job in their local communities, while 33% said it was a good time. Europeans were the most pessimistic, with 72% saying it was a bad time. Optimism was highest in the Americas, where a still dismal 38% said it was a good time.


All of the top 10 countries where residents were most positive about the job market were developing countries, except Singapore. Oil-rich Middle Eastern nations took four of the top spots; Saudi Arabia and Oman led internationally with 69% of residents saying it was a good time to find a job, despite relatively high unemployment rates. With global demand for oil continuing to increase, the fossil fuel-based economies in these countries, as well as in Qatar and Kuwait, have continued to shelter their residents from the recessionary pressures felt in other countries.


However, despite the widespread perception that it was a good time to find employment in these Middle Eastern countries, many non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries struggle with significant young, unemployed populations lacking the education and technical skills necessary for the limited number of private-sector jobs available. Residents' desires for jobs underpinned the Arab Spring, forcing Middle Eastern countries to rethink their job creation efforts and focus on diversifying beyond the oil sector while providing greater opportunities for youth employment.

Europe Continues to Struggle With Effects of Debt Crisis

Six of the 10 countries with the most negative outlooks were EU countries, with Greeks and the Irish nearly universally saying it was a bad time to find a job. These perceptions are likely to persist in 2012 as Europe continues to deleverage its debts. In addition, the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) scandal -- caused by fraudulent manipulations of the interest rates submitted by London-based banks to determine interbank borrowing costs -- will likely affect economic stability and confidence in European financial markets.


Egypt's ongoing political turmoil following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak has deeply affected the tourism, manufacturing, and construction industries and has shaken Egyptians' confidence in their economy. Nearly nine in 10 Egyptians say it is a bad time to find a job; these negative perceptions will likely continue throughout 2012 as the country works to establish its first post-Mubarak government.

Senegal -- the only sub-Saharan African country on the bottom 10 list -- continues to have exceptionally high unemployment rates and relies heavily on the international donor community to compensate for its budgetary shortfalls. Violence plagued the African nation in 2011, with mass protests disputing proposed changes to the constitution by President Abdoulaye Wade -- and making international donors skittish about funding development projects there.

Residents of the World's Largest Economies Generally Negative on Jobs

Residents in eight of the world's 10 largest economies did not think it was a good time to find a job in 2011. Brazil and Germany were the two bright spots in an otherwise gloomy outlook on the availability of jobs; about half of residents in each country said it was a good time to find a job.

Brazil was one of the first emerging economies to recover from the global recession, and the country has continued along that path, reporting strong GDP growth and historically low urban unemployment. And despite Europe's economic woes, Germany achieved historically low unemployment rates throughout 2011, which may have contributed to residents' more positive outlook on the jobs situation.


While the global economic situation has improved to a certain degree from the depths of decline in 2008 and 2009, most leaders still struggle with high unemployment rates, large national debts, and broken industries. Despite strong GDP growth, China has not been immune to the economic slowdown of countries that are traditional major buyers for their goods, including the U.S. The Chinese government has instituted restrictions on overheated sectors including housing and has tightened monetary policies to prevent inflation, contributing to slower growth.


Public perceptions of whether it is a good or bad time to find a job represent an important indicator of economic confidence. While certain regions in 2011 were more positive about the job situation than others, Gallup's data show that no region has escaped the effects of the global economic slowdown.

Strong GDP gains and further recovery from the recession may help increase residents' confidence in their ability to find local employment. However, leaders must address systemic issues to achieve sustainable long-term employment and economic growth. Countries -- particularly those in Europe -- must find ways to promote entrepreneurship and job creation while addressing bloated public sectors and extensive patronage systems. In addition, diversifying economies -- shifting away from single sources of growth, such as exports or construction -- may help countries better weather economic storms.

Governments must also address flaws in their balance sheets and social welfare programs. In advanced economies, the population continues to gray, while in developing countries, the birth rate continues to balloon. Budgets and long-term strategic planning need to be flexible and take into account these changing realities.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 146 countries and areas in 2011. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


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