A survey released last week by Ipsos, a market research firm, studied “Global Attitudes on Materialism, Finances and Family” with some important revelations about consumer attitudes in certain Asia-Pacific countries. The findings on materialism hold the most salience for APAC, where China and India topped the rankings as the most materialistic based on the number of respondents who agreed with the statement that “I measure my success by the things I own.”
Seventy-one percent of respondents in China and 58 percent of Indian respondents agreed with that statement, the highest among countries surveyed by Ipsos. The global average saw 34 percent of respondents agreeing, making the Chinese and Indian responses stand out not only regionally, but on a global level. Turkey was the only other country to have over 50 percent of respondents agree with the statement. The survey found a marked divergence between emerging market respondents compared to those from developed nations, who overwhelmingly did not measure their success by their possessions.
The Ipsos survey also measured the pressure to succeed by asking respondents if they agreed with the statement “I feel under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money.” Once again, China lead the global rankings with 68 percent of Chinese respondents agreeing. South Africa and Russia ranked second and third, respectively, and India was the next APAC nation, coming in at fourth with 60 percent of respondents agreeing. The global average in this case was 46 percent.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The most revealing results, however, come from Ipsos’ findings regarding the following questions: “Looking ahead to the next 12 months, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the following: [Your Country/You and Your Family].” India topped the national optimism rankings, with 53 percent of Indian respondents optimistic about the future of the country. India was the only country where over half the respondents felt optimistic about the national future. China featured fourth on national optimism with 46 percent of Chinese feeling optimistic, well above the global average of 32 percent.
The one ranking where Chinese respondents fell below the global average was optimism about personal and family fortunes. While a respectable 56 percent of Chinese respondents felt their fortunes would be positive over the next 12 months, this number was still below the global average. India was the only APAC emerging economy to beat the global average, with 71 percent of Indians sanguine about their personal fortunes.
The Ipsos survey results confirm what many have observed regarding the burgeoning middle-classes in India and China. With urbanization and real incomes increasing in these two Asian giants, materialism and consumption are on the rise. This is good news, particularly for China, which is attempting to wean itself off an investment-based growth model and enter a more mature demand-driven model of economic growth. China’s luxury good market is booming, as exemplified by this holiday season. According to Sinosphere, China overtook France to become the third largest market for luxury goods. The relatively low level of Chinese optimism regarding personal futures indicates a lack of faith among the Chinese middle-class in national economic policy.
India’s rosy outlook is quite surprising given its tumultuous economic year, which included a plummeting Indian rupee. The results suggest that India’s macroeconomic troubles haven’t quite affected consumer confidence to the degree that one would expect, boding well for the economy as it heads into 2014 with elections on the horizon and potential economic change in line should the BJP prevail in May.
Ipsos’ findings set forth a positive picture for consumer demand in two of the Asia-Pacific’s largest economies. The caveats of the reports include a slight limitation in representativeness given the lack of high Internet penetration rates in India and China, but they capture the perspective of mostly middle-class citizens. Both India and China have significant swathes of their population that do not participate in the primarily urban markets for consumer goods. Ipsos describes the respondents as “primary engaged citizens” who meet a threshold of education, income and connectivity. As India and China head into 2014, one can expect middle-class demand to remain strong.