When will life return to ‘pre-COVID normal’?

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content


  • A majority of people expect life to return to something like ‘normal’ within the next 12 months, according to a new World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey.
  • There are large differences between countries on this, though.
  • The pandemic has also impacted people’s emotional and mental health.

Expectations about when life might return to something like a ‘pre-COVID normal’ vary widely across the globe, according to a new World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey.

It found that, on average, 59% of people expect something like ‘normal’ will return within the next 12 months.

But there were significant differences in different countries.

In Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and mainland China, over 70% of adults expect life will return to a pre-COVID normal within a year.

In stark contract, 80% of people in Japan think it will be longer, with more half in France, Italy, South Korea and Spain agreeing.

How long before return to pre-COVID life
Opinions varied widely around the world. Image: Ipsos

What is the COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda?

The COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda builds on the actions that its members have already taken and seeks to inspire new commitments. It outlines 25 concrete recommendations for five key stakeholder groups to support social entrepreneurs during COVID-19:

  • Intermediaries and networks are called on to surface the needs of the social entrepreneurs they serve on the ground and provide them with fitting support
  • (Impact) investors are called on to adapt their investment priorities and processes and to provide flexible capital and must-have technical assistance
  • Corporations are called on to stand with the social entrepreneurs in their supply chains and ecosystems, and join forces with them to “shape a new tomorrow”
  • Funders and philanthropists are called on to expand and expedite their financial support to social entrepreneurs and intermediaries, taking risks reflective of today’s unprecedented times
  • Government institutions at all levels are called on to recognize social entrepreneurs as a driving force in safeguarding jobs and in building a greener and equitable society, and to back them accordingly.

Global contrasts

Differences emerged around the world about the return to something like a pre-COVID normal. Although more than half think it’ll happen within the next 12 months, one-in-five think it will take more than 3 years, while 8% don’t think it’ll happen at all.

Opinions on when the pandemic will be contained also closely matched opinions on a return to normal – suggesting that people believe the two to be closely linked.

On average, 58% of those surveyed expect the pandemic to be contained within the next year. Some countries – India, mainland China and Saudi Arabia, for example – are more optimistic. But, four-in-five in Japan and more than half in countries including Australia and Sweden expect it will take more than a year for the pandemic to be contained.

How long before COVID pandemic is contained
Levels of optimism vary around the world. Image: Ipsos

The impact on mental health

The survey also asked people about the pandemic’s impact on their mental health. An average of 45% of adults globally said their mental and physical health has become worse since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, since the beginning of 2021 nearly as many say it has improved as say it has worsened.

Pandemic's impact on emotional and mental
People are reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their emotional and mental health. Image: Ipsos

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