Britain at risk of serious social unrest, report warns
Britain is in danger of serious social unrest and public disorder in response to the economic crisis, according to a new report.
By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 9:36AM GMT 21 Mar 2009
Bouts of social upheaval are set to disrupt economies and topple governments around the globe over the next two years, the Economist Intelligence Unit warned.
Britain is at “moderate risk” of the protests with “far from a clean bill of health”, the study said, in contrast to previous years when western European states were almost automatically rated at “low risk”.
The paper, called Manning the Barricades, identified Britain as one of a group of “heavily indebted economies that experienced housing bubbles” and “are particularly vulnerable to deleveraging and asset price declines”.
It added: “The UK has been among the worst-hit developed countries by the global downturn and the majority of the population fears a deep and long recession and the onset of mass unemployment.
“Popular discontent and anger are likely to rise, and populist sentiments to strengthen. The news of big personal payouts to bankers who have failed spectacularly has incensed public opinion.”
Ninety-five countries were ranked in the “high” or “very high” risk bracket, while Britain was placed 132nd on the list, alongside Ireland, and behind France and the US.
Top of the list were Zimbabwe, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia and Sudan, and there were three European countries among the 27 rated as “very high risk” Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia & Herzogovina.
Citing a recent poll for Prospect magazine, in which 37 per cent predicted serious social unrest in British cities, the report identified the use of immigrant labour at a time of soaring unemployment as a possible flashpoint for unrest in Britain.
It said: “The mood of the country is also revealed by the results of a recent FT/Harris survey that showed that almost 80 per cent of British adults believe that immigrants should be asked to leave the country if they do not have a job.”
The most serious economic downturn since the 1930s is driving up poverty and unemployment and fuelling demands for protectionist policies which could deepen the recession into a lengthy depression, said the report.
It added: “Popular anger around the world is growing as a result of rising unemployment, pay cuts and freezes, bail-outs for banks, and falls in house prices and the value of savings and pension funds.
“As people lose confidence in the ability of governments to restore stability, protests look increasingly likely.
“A spate of incidents in recent months shows that the global economic downturn is already having political repercussions.
“This is being seen as a harbinger of worse to come. There is growing concern about a possible global pandemic of unrest.”
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