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2021 Global Risks Report

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Reading: 2021 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum

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WEF’s 2021 Global Risks Report

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Preface

Our analysis centres on the risks and consequences of widening inequalities and societal fragmentation. In some cases, disparities in health outcomes, technology, or workforce opportunities are the direct result of the dynamics the pandemic created. In others, already- present societal divisions have widened, straining weak safety nets and economic structures beyond capacity. Whether the gaps can be narrowed will depend on the actions taken in the wake of COVID-19 to rebuild with a view towards an inclusive and accessible future. Inaction on economic inequalities and societal divisiveness may further stall action on climate change—still an existential threat to humanity.

Growing societal fragmentation—manifested through persistent and emerging risks to human health, rising unemployment, widening digital divides, and youth disillusionment—can have severe consequences in an era of compounded economic, environmental, geopolitical and technological risks. The gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” will widen further if technology access and ability remain disparate. The world’s youth have faced exceptional pressures in the past decade and are particularly vulnerable to missing out altogether on the opportunities of the next.

For business, the economic, technological and reputational pressures of the present moment risk a disorderly shakeout, threatening to create a large cohort of workers and companies that are left behind in the markets of the future. Governments, too, must balance between managing the pandemic and economic contraction, while at the same time creating new opportunities that are fundamental to social cohesion and the viability of their populations. Most critically, if environmental considerations—the top long-term risks once again—are not confronted in the short term, environmental degradation will intersect with societal fragmentation to bring about dramatic consequences. If managed poorly, these disruptions will hamper the ability of policy-makers and other leaders to act on different areas of risk.

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