A report by Cigna’s International Markets business finds people’s confidence about being able to meet financial commitments remains weak and it will be a long struggle to mitigate the pandemic’s worst outcomes.
COVID-19 has already inflicted the biggest peacetime economic shock since the Great Depression of 1928. After nine months, the pandemic is having an impact on people’s perception of their financial future.
This report reveals that people are increasingly concerned about their ability to afford housing with only 27% of people globally saying they are confident they can keep up with their payments. In individual markets, there are more stark differences. In the United States, people’s confidence in their ability to pay for their housing costs has fallen by 10% over the last quarter (36% Aug vs. 46% June) and in Hong Kong, there has been a drop of 6% (11% Aug vs 17% June).
Today, nearly half (49%) of global respondents say the economic environment will have a negative impact on their financial situation and planning. In Hong Kong, we’ve seen an 11% rise in the number of people anticipating their financial situation will get worse (63% Aug vs. 52% Jan). Meanwhile, in Singapore, we’ve seen a 5% rise (52% Aug vs 47% Jan) and in the UK a 4% rise (43% Aug vs. 39% Jan).
Jason Sadler, President, Cigna International Markets said: “Across the board, the results exhibit a sense of reluctant acceptance that we are in this long-term with profound impacts for our lives and especially future financial confidence. The slow recovery of confidence and optimism has significant implications for staff management as we face the repeated return of restrictions and an escalation of infections as the northern hemisphere heads into winter.”
People have also become resigned to the potential of a constant cycle of lockdowns as the world deals with the virus. Despite most international markets not being in lockdown when the survey was conducted in August, 50% of people globally said they did not think COVID-19 would go away and it will be a seasonal disease. This was most acutely felt in Thailand (59%), Hong Kong (57%), the UK (56%) and jointly Spain and Taiwan (55%).
Predictors of stress
Overall global stress levels remain high with 83% of people saying they are stressed, although this has remained consistent throughout the pandemic. ‘Always on’ working rates have also remained high, with 79% of people reporting they are checking emails and being constantly available after office hours or over the weekends, up from 76% in June and January.
Extending from the last report, the report finds that working from home preferences have become more embedded, with 56% saying they want to continue to work from home at least half the time in the future, increasing from 53% in June. The largest increases were seen in Hong Kong where they rose by 13% between June and August (60% Aug vs. 47% June), Spain rose by 6% (62% Aug vs. 56% June) and the UAE rose 8% (54% Aug vs. 46% June). Interestingly, the UK saw a decline of 9% (45% June vs. 54% Aug) suggesting that some weariness about ongoing home working is being felt.
While the third edition of the COVID-19 Global Impact Study clearly shows that the pandemic exerts a toll on well-being, there are encouraging signs of people’s resilience and their creativity in adapting to circumstances.