Reaching out to some of the same risk professionals that respond to the its “Global Risks Report” each year, the World Economic Forum announced the results of a special “COVID-19 Risk Perception Survey,” finding their concerns centered on economic risks above all other categories.
The Forum tallied 350 responses from some of the world’s top risk experts, who offered their views on 31 risks across three dimensions over the next 18 months: most likely fallout risks from COVID-19 for the world, most concerning for the world and most worrisome for their companies.
More than two-thirds of respondents said a prolonged global is a recession a top worry for their own businesses. Surging bankruptcies, failing industries and supply chain disruption were other company-specific risk concerns. The only non-economic risk concern near the top of the list is cyber attacks, selected by half the respondents.
Participants in the survey included risk specialists in business, government, civil society and academia, with 20 percent coming from the insurance and asset management industry. The survey was conducted between April 1 and April 13, among the Forum’s community of risk professionals and the professional networks of Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group.
The only other non-economic risks included among the top 10 identified by the respondents as concerns to their companies in the next 18 months were the possibility of tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods across borders, classified by WEF as a geopolitical risk, and another global outbreak of COVID-19 or another infectious disease.
Interestingly, the risk of another outbreak in the next 18 months just barely made it into the top 10 likely risks for the world selected by survey participants, with only 30 percent viewing that as likely. A higher percentage—40 percent—saw another outbreak as a concerning risk for the world.
The report notes that “pandemics have traditionally suffered from a panic–neglect cycle,” being forgotten in risk rankings for long stretches until outbreaks make them top of mind again. As Carrier Management noted in a recent analysis, 2015 was the last time the risk “rapid and massive spread of infectious disease” was ranked near the top of a WEF Global Risk ranking, then landing in second place among the on the Top 5 Risks in terms of global impact.
“Quiet periods see no action, early warnings of an outbreak tend to be overlooked, significant response and funding are late and uncoordinated, and valuable lessons from the crisis are not institutionalized,” WEF notes in the COVID special report.
WEF said the COVID-19 Risk Perception Survey report is an initial mapping that will be supplemented by further work including the World Economic Forum’s next annual Global Risks Report.
Compared to prior Global Risk Reports, the rankings of likely and concerning risks in the COVID report look more similar to reports published in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis than to recent reports.
In recent years, environmental risks and technology risks have dominated the likely and impactful risk selections of risk experts surveyed.