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World — Rising trend in global unrest frustrates trade and investment

Global mass protests are increasing in frequency, scope and size. New research shows that in 2019, anti-government protests occurred in 114 countries—up over 30% from a decade ago. Each protest is driven by a unique local context. However, the increasing likelihood of global economic recession, worsening effects of climate change, increasing connectivity, urbanisation, youth unemployment and, most importantly, perceptions of inequality and corruption are likely to continue the trend towards global unrest. According to Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index released earlier this year, more than two-thirds of countries are perceived by citizens to be stagnating or backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts. The United Nations currently tracks 60 countries with Gini coefficients higher than 40, a level widely recognised as highly unequal.

The stress points that could fuel mass protests vary widely across emerging markets important to Australia’s export performance (see Table). Countries such as South Africa, Russia, PNG, Egypt and Colombia suffer from multiple ills. The global trend toward increasingly widespread and frequent unrest—recently evidenced by protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon and Chile that sapped economic growth and soured the investment climate—is likely to increasingly impact Australian exporters.

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