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Which Countries Are Going in the Right Direction?



With so much polarization on key issues, it’s tough to get a pulse on where the world is heading.

But if you ditch the complexity and nuance surrounding current events, we can get a good gauge by asking a simple and direct question to people: are things going in the right direction?

Today’s data comes from the What Worries the World Report by Ipsos Public Affairs. It sums up responses from 18,110 people in 25 different countries on whether things are going in the “right direction” or “wrong direction” in their particular country.

The Right or Wrong Direction?

First of all, here is the official question posed by Ipsos – and the results sorted by country:

Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?

Country going in right or wrong direction?

On a global basis, 37% of people think their countries are heading in the “right direction”, though that varies for each individual country.

Respondents from China and Saudi Arabia are the most enthusiastic, with 90% and 80% of people respectively answering that things are on the right track. That said, it would be interesting to look at Ipsos’ methodology here to see how they are ensuring valid responses from people under the rule of more autocratic regimes.

The United States and Canada were in the middle of the pack. Only 35% Americans see things as being on the right track, while 54% of Canadians feel the same way.

Generally speaking, Europeans, Mexicans, Brazilians, and South Koreans are the most pessimistic about future prospects.

Hot Button Issues

What issues have got people feeling this way?

Respondents were asked to select their top three worries from a set of 17 options:

Biggest worries by issue

The two biggest global worries are both economic in nature: “Unemployment” and “Poverty & Social Inequality” were selected by 38% and 34% of people respectively.

Issues such as “Terrorism”, “Rise of Extremism” or “Immigration Control” are surprisingly in the middle of the pack, though it is worth keeping in mind that the above data is at a global level. These issues would likely rank higher in Western countries than in places like China, Russia, or India.

Trending Up or Down

With only 37% of global respondents seeing their country being “on track”, does that rank higher or lower than in previous surveys?

Right track over time

Interestingly, it is basically par for the course.

Since 2010, the results have basically trended sideways, with the percentage of people for “on track” never cracking 40% on a global level.

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Ranked: The World’s 50 Top Countries by GDP, by Sector Breakdown

This graphic shows GDP by country, broken down into three main sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.



Visualized: The Three Pillars of GDP, by Country

Over the last several decades, the service sector has fueled the economic activity of the world’s largest countries. Driving this trend has been changes in consumption, the easing of trade barriers, and rapid advancements in tech.

We can see this in the gross domestic product (GDP) breakdown of each country, which gets divided into three broad sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.

The above graphic from Pranav Gavali shows GDP by country, and how each sector contributes to an economy’s output, with data from the World Bank.

Drivers of GDP, by Country

As the most important and fastest growing component of GDP, services make up almost 60% of GDP in the world’s 50 largest countries. Following this is the industrial sector which includes the production of raw goods.

Below, we show how each sector contributes to GDP by country as of 2021:

(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
🇺🇸 U.S.77.617.91.03.6$22.9
🇨🇳 China53.539.37.20.0$16.9
🇯🇵 Japan69.928.81.00.4$5.1
🇩🇪 Germany62.926.70.99.5$4.2
🇬🇧 UK71.617.30.710.4$3.1
🇫🇷 France70.316.71.611.4$2.9
🇮🇳 India47.926.117.38.7$2.9
🇮🇹 Italy65.022.71.910.4$2.1
🇨🇦 Canada*67.724.11.76.6$2.0
🇰🇷 South Korea57.$1.8
🇧🇷 Brazil57.820.27.514.6$1.6
🇦🇺 Australia65.725.52.36.5$1.6
🇷🇺 Russia54.131.83.910.3$1.6
🇪🇸 Spain67.420.42.69.6$1.4
🇲🇽 Mexico59.$1.3
🇮🇩 Indonesia42.839.813.34.1$1.2
🇮🇷 Iran47.338.012.42.3$1.1
🇳🇱 Netherlands69.417.91.511.2$1.0
🇨🇭 Switzerland71.924.60.62.8$0.8
🇹🇷 Turkiye52.831.15.510.6$0.8
🇹🇼 Taiwan60.638.01.50.0$0.8
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia46.544.72.76.1$0.8
🇵🇱 Poland56.927.92.213.0$0.7
🇧🇪 Belgium68.819.60.710.9$0.6
🇸🇪 Sweden65.022.51.311.3$0.6
🇮🇱 Israel72.417.21.39.1$0.5
🇦🇷 Argentina52.523.67.116.8$0.5
🇦🇹 Austria62.425.81.210.5$0.5
🇳🇬 Nigeria43.831.423.41.4$0.5
🇹🇭 Thailand56.335.08.70.0$0.5
🇮🇪 Ireland55.437.81.05.8$0.5
🇭🇰 Hong Kong89.$0.4
🇩🇰 Denmark66.719.30.913.1$0.4
🇸🇬 Singapore70.324.40.05.3$0.4
🇿🇦 South Africa63.024.52.510.0$0.4
🇵🇭 Philippines61.028.910.10.0$0.4
🇪🇬 Egypt52.531.211.44.9$0.4
🇧🇩 Bangladesh51.333.311.63.7$0.4
🇳🇴 Norway51.836.31.710.2$0.4
🇻🇳 Vietnam41.237.512.68.8$0.4
🇲🇾 Malaysia51.637.89.61.1$0.4
🇦🇪 U.A.E.51.647.50.90.0$0.4
🇵🇰 Pakistan52.118.822.76.4$0.3
🇵🇹 Portugal64.719.62.213.5$0.3
🇫🇮 Finland60.324.12.313.4$0.3
🇨🇴 Colombia58.$0.3
🇷🇴 Romania59.$0.3
🇨🇿 Czechia58.830.31.89.1$0.3
🇨🇱 Chile54.431.33.610.6$0.3
🇳🇿 New

Industrial sector includes construction. Agriculture sector includes forestry and fishing. *Data as of 2019.

In the U.S., services make up nearly 78% of GDP. Apart from Hong Kong, it comprises the highest share of GDP across the world’s largest economies. Roughly 80% of American jobs in the private sector are in services, spanning from healthcare and entertainment to finance and logistics.

Like America, a growing share of China’s GDP is from services, contributing to almost 54% of total economic output, up from 44% in 2010. This can be attributed to rising incomes and higher productivity in the sector as the economy has grown and matured, among other factors.

In a departure from the top 10 biggest countries globally, agriculture continues to drive a large portion of India’s GDP. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and rice, with agriculture accounting for 44% of the country’s employment.

While the services sector has grown in India, it makes up a greater share in other emerging economies such as Brazil (58%), Mexico (59%), and the Philippines (61%).

Growth Dynamics

Services-led growth has risen faster than manufacturing across many developing nations, underpinned by productivity growth.

This structural shift is seen across economies. In many countries in Africa, for instance, jobs have increasingly moved from agriculture to services and trade, where it now accounts for 42% of jobs.

These growth patterns are supported by rising incomes in developing economies, while innovation in tech is lowering barriers to enabling service growth. As the industrial sector makes up a lower share of trade and economic activity, the service sector is projected to make up 77% of global GDP by 2035.

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