Press release

COVID-19 pandemic fueling social inequality and political unrest: Political Risk Map 2021

April 13, 2021

According to a new report by Marsh, the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor, pandemic-induced economic stress will continue to exacerbate global political risk throughout 2021 and amplify the threats facing already-fragile economies.  

The Political Risk Map 2021, which is published by Marsh Specialty, shows larger increases than ever before in country economic risk across all regions globally. This is being driven by increases in deficit spending over the last 12 months, which is adding to sovereign and commercial credit risks in the less developed economies of the world. According to the report, the strains on public financing in emerging markets will result from increases in sovereign indebtedness and may create unfavourable conditions for domestic and foreign-owned businesses.

Findings from this year's Political Risk Map 2021 mirror those in the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2021, which reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing disparities between emerging economies and industrialised nations. It is also driving social fragmentation which, in the next 5-10 years, will weaken geopolitical stability.

According to this year’s report, social inequality is a pervasive risk across multiple regions – particularly in the Americas and Europe. In the future, inequality is likely to influence elections, contribute to political and economic nationalism, and could create conditions that spark open conflict.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries established or amended state-backed trade credit schemes to provide economic stability. While these programmes are currently supporting domestic trade and exports, critics argue they are keeping zombie companies – those with heavy debt burdens and low cash reserves – alive. The Political Risk Map 2021 points to the risk of mass bankruptcies among zombie companies once these government-backed schemes expire.

Mark Wong, Asia Political Risk and Structured Credit Leader, Marsh Specialty, commented: “While the political risk map highlights the economic inequality across the world, we are glad to see some countries in Asia, such as China and Vietnam picking up the pace in economic growth in 2021. The recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement presents opportunities for multinational corporations to enhance their presence in Asia as the world looks to create a more geographically-balanced growth model. To leverage such opportunities companies should have bespoke approaches to prepare for risk related to supply chain, geopolitics, sovereign credit, cross-border investments and trade.”

Stephen Kay, Global Head of Political Risks, Marsh Specialty, commented: “As the world recovers from the effects of COVID-19, we expect the issues of social inequality, country economic risk, and strategic resource nationalism to take centre stage in influencing political decision making. Despite many areas of heightened risk, opportunities remain for corporate entities, financiers, and investors. Insurance-backed political risk and credit solutions can help to secure trade and investment capital, unlock liquidity, and enable growth that will fuel and sustain the recovery from COVID-19.”

The Political Risk Map 2021 is based on data from Marsh Specialty’s World Risk Review platform. It rates 197 countries and territories across nine indicators relating to security, trading, and investments. The interactive map can be used to help multinationals make more informed decisions about how to deploy their financial resources and manage the risks associated with their operations, assets, investments, and contracts in the year ahead.

About Marsh

Marsh is the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor. With around 40,000 colleagues operating in more than 130 countries, Marsh serves commercial and individual clients with data-driven risk solutions and advisory services. Marsh is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With annual revenue over $18 billion, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment through four market-leading businesses: MarshGuy CarpenterMercer and Oliver Wyman. For more information, visit, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter or subscribe to BRINK.

Media contact

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Angeline Ong

Head of Marketing and Communications, Marsh

+65 6922 8094