The World Economic Forum released a report Wednesday that warns of a threat to economies all over the world from anger over increasing inequality. It also said that, for the first time in generations, people are no longer optimistic that their children will experience a better standard of living.
The release came, according to a Reuters report, two weeks prior to the WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at which politicians, business leaders and central bankers gather to discuss globalization, and painted a gloomy picture of the future.
Unemployed youth, elders who must depend on debt-saddled states for shrinking pensions and an increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots have combined and sown "seeds of dystopia."
Lee Howell, the WEF managing director responsible for the report, was quoted saying, "It needs immediate political attention, otherwise the political rhetoric that responds to this social unease will involve nationalism, protectionism and rolling back the globalization process."
The growing debt crisis has already been mentioned as a major threat in two of the WEF's previous reports; however, the lingering nature of the crisis and the lack of substantive action to resolve it has meant that it continues to be a top concern. Howell said in the report, "We're seeing governments kicking the can down the road and not trying to get their hands on it."
Also occupying greater prominence is the threat of cyberattacks against individuals, corporations and nations. Steve Wilson, chief risk officer for general insurance at Zurich Financial Services, was quoted saying, "The Arab Spring demonstrated the power of interconnected communications services to drive personal freedom, yet the same technology facilitated riots in London."
He added, "It's completely mind-boggling how complex the world is becoming and it is hard to understand the risks that come from that."
Other concerns include worries that financial and regulatory measures may be inadequate to safeguard modern markets; increasing greenhouse gas emissions; water shortages; and such X factors as a volcanic winter or some sort of disaster resulting from an accident with a new technology such as genetically modified organisms or nanotechnology.