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Trends and Insight

The Truth about Culture and Covid-19: Government's Handling of Pandemic and Rising Racism Concerns

APAC findings of McCann Worldgroup’s global study reveal faith in government along with fears of anti-Asian sentiment

The Truth about Culture and Covid-19: Government's Handling of Pandemic and Rising Racism Concerns

Only 9% of people in Singapore believe the government has let them down in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, compared with 27% of people globally being disappointed with their government’s performance, according to the APAC data from 'Truth About Culture and Covid-19' - the ongoing study of the pandemic by McCann Worldgroup’s global intelligence unit – McCann Worldgroup Truth Central.

The study has been running since March 2020 and, since its inception, has included China, India and Japan in the survey of 18 markets around the world from the outset. The study has now been expanded to also include an additional seven Asia Pacific markets: Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and South Korea, providing a breadth of insights specific to this region. Subsequent global averages reflect the total of all markets (G25).

Unsurprisingly, the data from APAC is very diverse, reflective of the different socio-economic conditions in the markets surveyed, as well as demographic and cultural differences.

“This study helps provide valuable insights into ongoing shifts in global consumer attitudes regarding Coronavirus." commented Alex Lubar, president, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific. "We are seeing deep-rooted trends manifest, set against a backdrop of cultural values, norms and expectations, that will shape the economy this year and beyond.”


Trust in Government is High, Except for Japan
While there are a range of responses, APAC overall is less likely to think their government has let them down, with only 22% of respondents believing so, compared with 27% of respondents globally. That said, 33% of people in Japan believe their government has let them down, compared to only 9% of people in China and Singapore.

Additionally, when asked to rate how prepared their country was to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak, non-APAC markets polled at only 30% of people thinking their country was ‘prepared’, versus China at 90% and Singapore at 70%. Japan again is an outlier, with only 13% of people believing their country was prepared. Consequently, there is a higher level of trust in the APAC region in government-issued guidelines.

When asked to “describe your approach to government rules and safety advice regarding Covid-19”, 73% of people in China and 70% of Australians and Singaporeans polled said they were “following the rules very carefully” as compared to just 58% globally.

APAC’s experience with past outbreaks such as SARS and Avian ‘flu may have provided an initial advantage in curbing the spread of Covid-19 and APAC markets continue to be a source of inspiration and learnings for countries around the world.


Anti-Asian Racism A Significant Concern
An unfortunate consequence of the outbreak 'originating' from China is the surge of anti-Asian sentiment across the world, with documented cases where individuals who look Chinese, regardless of actual nationality or ethnicity, have faced discrimination. As a result, 22% of people in APAC are concerned that people will become more racist, compared to 18% globally. This is most prominent in markets with high Chinese ethnicity, such as Hong Kong (29%), Singapore (29%), and China (28%), versus India, for example, which is more in line with the global average. Overall, 38% of people in APAC believe Covid-19 has emphasised existing inequalities.


APAC Believe Brands Should Help, Not Sell Dreams
The region faces a shared concern about the state of the economy with 57% of people in APAC concerned that their economy will suffer and 39% of people in APAC worried that they will lose their job or struggle financially (compared with 31% globally). The number rises to the highest out of any market surveyed in China, with 60% of people worrying about their jobs / finances, ranges between 35-40% in Southeast Asia and is lowest in Australia at just 26%.

This is also impacting how people plan to spend post-crisis. The study found that 64% of people in APAC say that when this crisis is over, they’ll be more cautious about how they spend their money, rather than doing/buying what they haven’t been able to (during Covid), with three in four people in both India and the Philippines agreeing that they will be more conservative with their finances.

However, this isn’t the case everywhere. In Japan, 55% of people say they intend to go do / buy what they haven’t been able to, rather than be cautious about spending. And in South Korea, 69% of people intend to do / purchase what they’ve missed out on as a result of the pandemic.

It’s no surprise that more people in APAC believe brands should address their concerns. 54% of people in APAC believe brands should understand their frustrations rather than providing them with dreams, a significant increase from 2018 when only 41% of people said the same. *


From Devastation to Innovation
Encouragingly, 43% of people in APAC believe this crisis will inspire new innovations, compared with 36% globally. This is most strongly seen in Singapore, with 58% of people believing that the crisis will inspire new innovations, the highest figure globally.

“It was very encouraging to see some positive indicators of confidence, given what the world has been going through, demonstrating why careful navigation of cultural nuances and deeper knowledge has become vital for governments and brands”, commented Richard McCabe, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific.


*Data point from a previous McCann Worldgroup Truth Central study, 'The Truth About Global Brands'.

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