China consumers 'pessimistic'

13 June 2012

BEIJING: Middle class consumers in China are generally more pessimistic and place far more importance on personal wealth than their counterparts in mature markets, Kantar research has shown.

According to the media research firm's new Global Consumer Perspectives survey, which tracks consumers across 10 markets, people living in emerging-world countries including China, Turkey and South Africa have generally "unhappy" and "pessimistic" attitudes to life, while the opposite is the case for people in Germany, the US and UK.

Kantar measured optimism by tracking the proportion of respondents in each nation who believed "there is a lot I can do to change my life". The researchers also asked people whether they were "happy" or "unhappy" with their present standard of living.

Brazil was an outlier among the emerging markets tracked by Kantar, with middle class consumers remaining optimistic about the future, despite being 20% less likely than the global average to be happy with their present circumstances. In all, 58% of Brazilians said they were hopeful they could change their lives.

The variation in consumer mindsets between fast-growth economies in the global south and mature markets in North America and Europe contrasts with GDP trends.

According to latest forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, advanced economies will expand by just +1.4% in 2012, while emerging economies will grow by +6.7%.

The Kantar report also indexed responses on the issue of whether "money is the best measure of success". Chinese consumers were by far the most likely to agree with this statement, attaining an index reading of 262.

India and Egypt were next most-likely to see money as important, with readings of 170 and 151 respectively, indicating that around half of respondents in these nations agree.

By contrast, consumers in the US (53) and UK (32) were far less likely to see money as important.

Commenting on the results, Sandy Livingstone, director for TGI Insights & Integration at Kantar Media, said: "While emerging economies are experiencing more rapid growth than the traditional western powers, the Global Consumer Perspectives report demonstrates that this growth is yet to translate into greater optimism among their middle-classes.

"At present the middle classes in the emerging economies seem to be so focussed on growth and keeping the boom going that there is little room for contemplation of happiness and optimism."

Data sourced from Kantar; additional content by Warc staff