Majority worldwide back immigration, nations joining hands: Survey

WEF founder Klaus Schwab has said he wanted to build an organisation that would make the world a better place.
WEF founder Klaus Schwab has said he wanted to build an organisation that would make the world a better place.

PARIS • The global public favours cooperation between nations, thinks immigration is a good thing and believes climate scientists, according to a poll of 10,000 people in every region of the world.

The poll was commissioned by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and will be discussed at panels at this year's meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

People in South-east Asia and Africa were the strongest believers in countries working together, with 88 per cent saying it is extremely or very important.

The least enthusiastic region was Western Europe, where 61 per cent held that view. Worldwide, the figure was 76 per cent, and in North America, 70 per cent.

A global majority of 57 per cent said immigrants were "mostly good" for their new country, but only 40 per cent of Eastern Europeans thought so. Despite the continuing stand-off in the US over building a wall along the Mexican border, 66 per cent of North Americans had a positive view of migrants.

One theme where there was less optimism was social mobility, with only 20 per cent of Western Europeans and 34 per cent of Americans saying it is common to be born poor and become rich.

Across the world, 54 per cent of those polled have trust in climate scientists. But in North America, only 17 per cent do.


Meanwhile, WEF founder Klaus Schwab said the meeting remains relevant even though some world leaders have announced they would not be attending.

Mr Schwab has said his childhood during World War II inspired him to build an organisation that would make the world a better place. His foundation, which hosts many of the world's most powerful, famous and wealthy people at its annual meeting, has clearly made an impact.

But questions have grown about whether the organisation is meeting its declared goal of "improving the state of the world", with resentment rising against the pro-business Davos agenda, and voters turning instead to populist leaders.

One persistent criticism is that WEF meetings have simply created a safe space for the corporate world to lobby governments without oversight. Ms Oliver Classen of the Swiss NGO Public Eye, which has spearheaded protests and other campaigns to counter the meeting, said the WEF has always been "fully dependent" on the 1,000 companies that support the foundation.

"Schwab seems to have a firm belief that making people talk to each other is an objective that justifies pretty much everything," Ms Classen said. "What he does not realise is that... when the large majority of those people have commercial interests then it is about deal-striking and nothing else."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'Majority worldwide back immigration, nations joining hands: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe