As unemployment rises and investment values sag, consumers in the Pacific rim are zipping their wallets, reports the latest biannual survey from ACNielsen Asia Pacific.

The most reluctant shoppers are said to be in New Zealand, Australia and – in particular – Hong Kong. Of a sample of 8,000 people in thirteen nations across the region, 99% said they felt themselves in the grip of a global recession. This compares with only 85% six months ago.

A third of those polled said the general worsening of the economy was their biggest fear, while 27% put job security at the top of the list. In Hong Kong the proportion rose to 39%.

But gloom was not universal. The nations in the van of recent economic growth – China, South Korea and Singapore – were more optimistic than the last sampling in December 2001.

Across the board, however, consumer sentiment is becoming more and more despondent, Nielsen reveals. Only 14% of the sample said they think recovery will come before the end of 2002, while a quarter say it will be at least 2004 before things pick up.

Nor is the previous immunity to recession holding up in Australasia, where a weak currency and consequently strong export performance had previously staved-off the effects of global slowdown.

According to Nielsen’s regional president Frank Martell: “It looks like we may have to wait another twelve to eighteen months before the region’s consumers open their wallets again. Prolonged deflation and a depressed property sector added to rising unemployment and volatile equity markets have taken a real toll on consumer confidence.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff