Global Risks Perception Survey and Methodology
The Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) is the World Economic Forum’s source of original risks data, harnessing the expertise of the Forum’s extensive network of business, government, civil society and thought leaders. The survey was conducted from 6 September to 22 October 2018 among the World Economic Forum’s multistakeholder communities, the professional networks of its Advisory Board, and members of the Institute of Risk Management. The results of the GRPS are used to create the Global Risks Landscape, Interconnections Map, and Trends Map presented at the beginning of the report, and to offer insights used throughout.
Both the GRPS and the Global Risks Report adopt the following definitions of global risk and trend:
Global risk: A “global risk” is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years.
Trend: A “trend” is defined as a long-term pattern that is currently evolving and that could contribute to amplifying global risks and/or altering the relationship between them.
The world in 2019
In the first section of the GRPS, respondents were asked to assess whether the risks associated with 42 current issues would increase or decrease in 2019 compared to 2018. For a list of these issues, see Figure 1.2 (page 12), which summarizes the results.
The possible answers ranged from “significantly decrease” to “significantly increase” along a 1–5 scale. For each issue, the share for each answer (“significantly increase”, “somewhat increase”, “no change”, “somewhat decrease” or “significantly decrease”) was obtained by dividing the number of respondents who selected that answer by the total number of answers.
In most cases, respondents were asked to base their answers on developments in their region. They were asked the following question: “In your region specifically, do you think that in 2019 the risks presented by the following issues will increase or decrease compared to 2018?” For the following seven issues, the question was framed globally: “On a global level, do you think that in 2019 the risks presented by the following issues will increase or decrease compared to 2018?”
- Economic confrontations/ frictions between major powers1
- Political confrontations/ frictions between major powers
- Erosion of global policy coordination on climate change
- Erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements
- Loss of confidence in collective security alliances
- Regional conflicts drawing in major power(s)
- State-on-state military conflict or incursion
The global risks landscape
For each of the 30 global risks listed in Appendix A, respondents were asked to assess (1) the likelihood of the risk occurring globally within the next 10 years, and (2) its negative impact for several countries or industries over the same timeframe.
For the first of these questions, the possible answers ranged from “very unlikely” to “very likely” along a 1–5 scale (1 = very unlikely, 5 = very Likely). For the second question, respondents could select one of five choices: “minimal”, “minor”, “moderate”, “severe”, or “catastrophic”, again using a 1–5 scale (1 = minimal, 5 = catastrophic). Respondents could choose “no opinion” if they felt unable to provide an informed answer, and they could also leave the question completely blank. Partial responses for any risk—those assessing only the likelihood of occurrence or only the negative impact—were dropped.
A simple average for both likelihood and impact for each of the 30 global risks was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in the Global Risks Landscape 2019 (Figure I).
Formally, for any given risk i, its likelihood and impact—denoted respectively likelihoodi and impacti—are:
where Ni is the number of respondents for risk i, and likelihoodi,n and impacti,n are, respectively, the likelihood and impact assigned by respondent n to risk i. The likelihood is measured on a scale of 1–5 and the impact on a scale of 1–5. Ni is the number of respondents for risk i who assessed both the likelihood and impact of that specific risk.
Figure B.1: Survey Sample Composition
Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Perception Survey 2018–2019.
Note: Reported shares are based on the number of participants (916) who responded to biographical questions.
Global risks interconnections
Part 3 of the GRPS assesses interconnections between pairs of global risks. Part 4 assesses interconnections between global risks and a set of underlying trends or drivers.
For the interconnections between pairs of risks, survey respondents were asked the following question: “Global risks are not isolated, and it is important to assess their interconnections. In your view, which are the most strongly connected global risks? Please select three to six pairs of global risks.” The results are illustrated in the Global Risks Interconnections Map 2019 (Figure III).
For the interconnections between trends and risks, respondents were first asked to identify up to three trends (for the full list, see Appendix A) that they considered most important in shaping the global agenda in the next 10 years. They were then asked to identify the three global risks that are most strongly driven by each of the three chosen trends. The two questions read: “What are the three most important trends (in no particular order) that will shape global development in the next 10 years?” followed by “For each of the three trends identified [in the previous question,] select up to three global risks . . . that are most strongly driven by these trends.” The results are illustrated in the Risks-Trends Interconnections Map 2019 (Figure II).
In both cases, a tally was made of the number of times each pair was cited. This value was then divided by the count of the most frequently cited pair. As a final step, the square root of this ratio was taken to dampen the long-tail effect (i.e. a few very strong links and many weak ones) and to make the differences more apparent across the weakest connections. Formally, the intensity of the interconnection between risks i and j, or between trend i and risk j, denoted interconnectionij, corresponds to:
where N is the number of respondents.
Variable pairij,n is 1 when respondent n selected the pair of risks i and j as part of his/her selection. Otherwise, it is 0. The value of the interconnection determines the thickness of each connecting line in Figures II and III, with the most frequently cited pair having the thickest line.
In the Global Risks Landscape and the Risks-Trends Interconnections Map, the size of each risk is scaled according to the degree of weight of that node in the system. Moreover, in the Risks-Trends Interconnections Map, the size of the trend represents the perception of its importance in shaping global development (answer to the first part of the question on trend, as explained above); the most-frequently cited trend is the one considered to be the most important in shaping global development. The placement of the nodes in the Risks-Trends Interconnections Map was computed using ForceAtlas2, a force-directed network layout algorithm implemented in Gephi software, which minimizes edge lengths and edge crossings by running a physical particle simulation.2
We did not apply an overall threshold for the GRPS completion rate. Instead, we set specific validity criteria for each section of the survey:
Part 1 “The World in 2019”: Only respondents who assessed at least three of the risks listed in this question were considered (916 respondents met the criterion).
Part 2 “Assessment of Global Risks”: The answers from the 885 respondents who assessed the impact and likelihood of at least one risk were used to compute the results (the answer “no opinion” is considered a valid answer, but leaving the question entirely blank is not).
Part 3 “Global Risk Interconnections”: The answers from the 635 respondents who selected at least one valid pair of risks were used in the computation.
Part 4 “Assessments of Trends”: The answers from the 749 respondents who selected at least one combination of an important trend and at least one associated risk were used in the computation.
Figure B.1 presents some key descriptive statistics and information about the profiles of the respondents.