Growing Global Concern over Poverty and Homelessness

January 8, 2015

Growing Concern over Poverty and Homelessness: Global Poll

A GlobeScan poll, released today, shows increases in perceived seriousness of poverty and homelessness. The GlobeScan poll of 24,000 citizens across 24 countries, including Canada, shows the abiding strength of people’s concerns about poverty and their perceptions of economic unfairness.

Poverty and homelessness continue as top-tier concerns with majorities in 15 of the 24 countries polled, including Canada, seeing these as a very serious problem (an average of over 80 percent see it at least as somewhat serious). These concerns are at the same high level as crime and violence, unemployment and the rising cost of food and energy – all of which are seen as more serious than “economic problems and uncertainty” and nine other issues tested.

In 12 of the 24 countries polled, the perceived seriousness of poverty and homelessness has either increased or remained stable at a high level since the question was last fielded in 2012. The most significant increases in perceived seriousness over the last two years are found in Europe, notably Germany where it has increased dramatically by 20 per cent (from 24% to 44%) and in Spain with an increase of 10 per cent (from 76% to 86%).

Relative to other challenges tested, poverty and homelessness is today one of the most serious issues globally, being seen most seriously in Spain, Nigeria, Chile, France and Peru.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International said: “This poll is powerful evidence that, all over the world, the public clamour to tackle inequality and poverty is growing and hardening by the day. Our political and business leaders will ignore this at their peril.

Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director, Julie Delahanty said: “Inequality is a global problem and Canada is a part of it. We are not living up to our potential and reputation, particularly in terms of gender equality. For example, at a time when there are more working mothers than ever before in Canadian history, there is still no national childcare system and more than one third of all single-mothers live below the poverty line."

At the same time, a significant 43 percent see “economic inequality” as a very serious problem (with an average of 80 percent rating it at least somewhat serious).

This is consistent with previous polling. In a 2012 survey of 22 countries conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service, fully 61 per cent of citizens worldwide felt that economic benefits and burdens have not been shared fairly in their country, with over a quarter (27%) concluding they had been shared “not at all fairly” and only 7 per cent “very fairly”.

GlobeScan Foundation president Doug Miller commented, “The current media focus on the growing gap between rich and poor has been deeply felt by citizens the world over since we first asked about it in 2008. In a number of countries, the strong sense of unfairness threatens to undermine the basic social contract that has kept both rich and poor working towards common ends.”

Oxfam Canada’s Julie Delahanty added: “The problem with growing economic inequality is not that some people can buy sports cars and yachts when others can’t. It’s that the richest can literally live longer lives, buy spots in the best schools for their children, and influence the laws that affect us all.”

According to the latest poll, citizens look primarily to government to show leadership on addressing issues of economic and social justice, with 59 per cent selecting government when asked who should lead on this, compared to only 13 per cent for large companies, 6 per cent for trade unions. Another 12 per cent say “all of them” should be collectively responsible.

Developing countries place the strongest emphasis on government leadership, particularly in Nigeria (73%), Chile (70%) and Indonesia (70%). However in some countries citizens have stronger expectations of leadership on the part of large companies, most notably in the USA (28%), India (27%), South Korea (21%) and France (19%).

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For more information contact:
Katia Gianneschi
Media Relations

Notes to Editors:

About the GlobeScan Foundation

Established in 2012, the GlobeScan Foundation is a Canadian-incorporated not-for-profit dedicated to helping achieve a sustainable and just world for all.

Partly funded by GlobeScan Incorporated, the 25-year-old stakeholder intelligence and engagement firm with offices in London, San Francisco and Toronto, the GlobeScan Foundation focuses on developing and applying a range of social science tools to help give voice to global publics, unlock collaboration and accelerate progress.  

About Oxfam

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries.

One person in three in the world lives in poverty. Oxfam is determined to change that world by mobilizing the power of people against poverty.

Around the globe, Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. We save lives and help rebuild livelihoods when crisis strikes. And we campaign so that the voices of the poor influence the local and global decisions that affect them.

In all we do, Oxfam works with partner organizations and alongside vulnerable women and men to end the injustices that cause poverty.

Research methodology

A total of 24,000 citizens across 24 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone (online Israel) between December 17, 2013 and April 28, 2014.  Polling was conducted by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country.  In five of the 24 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas.  The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.5 to 6.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The 24 countries are:

South Korea
UK (inc. NI)




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