Press Room

economic optimism continues among asia pacific consumers: nielsen

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  • Asia Pacific nations make up seven of the ten most confident countries globally
  • Indonesia is now the most optimistic nation globally followed by India, Philippines and Thailand
  • Significant confidence gains registered in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan
  • Optimism for jobs and personal finances remains high in Asia Pacific

SINGAPORE, 1 MAY 2013 – Consumers in the Asia Pacific region continue to display high levels of optimism.  Consumer confidence increased two index points to 103 in Q1 2013 when compared to the previous quarter and remained stable versus the same quarter a year ago, according to the latest Consumer Confidence Index from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

Nielsen’s latest Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions found that Indonesia is now the most optimistic country in the world with a confidence index of 122 points, an increase of five points from Q4 2012.

“Indonesian consumers are particularly buoyant due to strong domestic conditions,” notes Catherine Eddy, Managing Director, Nielsen Indonesia. “Historically, there has been a pattern of increased optimism in the lead up to an election in Indonesia, and with the Presidential election taking place in 2014 we’d expect this confidence will continue. An increase in the minimum wage has also resulted in more disposable income for those in formal employment, and there is a clear trend of consumers trading up to premium brands. As domestic consumption is the mainstay of GDP in Indonesia this augurs well for growth in the years ahead.”

Indonesia is closely followed by India at 120 points and the Philippines at 118 points, both of which recorded a decrease of one point from Q4 2012. This means that in Q1 2013, the top seven most confident nations globally are from the Asia Pacific region. The remaining global top ten are Thailand (116), Brazil (111), United Arab Emirates (108), China (108), Hong Kong (108), Malaysia (106) and Norway (106).

Across the 14 Asia Pacific countries Nielsen measured in Q1 2013, nine saw increases in consumer confidence compared to the previous quarter, one remained static and confidence fell marginally in the remaining four markets. Significant gains were experienced in Hong Kong (108, up 23 points), Japan (increase of 14 points to 73), South Korea (up 13 points to 51) and Taiwan (increase of 12 points to 78). Other countries recording increases included Vietnam (up 6 to 94) and Malaysia (107, an increase of 4 points), while Thailand (116) and Singapore (96) both increased by one point. Declines were recorded at the southern end of the region, where confidence in Australia (94) and New Zealand (90) dropped by one and four points respectively. Only China remained steady at 108 points. (See chart 1.)

“Pockets of local government austerity measures, combined with improved prospects for Asia imports by the US economy, created opportunity for healthy confidence gains in Southeast Asia markets and substantial gains in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,” said Therese Glennon, Nielsen’s APMEA Region Consumer Insights Leader. “Variations in optimism still exist across Asia Pacific, however, spanning an incredible 71 index points from Indonesia at the top to South Korea at the lower end, which is due to some countries being more exposed to shifting global conditions and the export market, while others are experiencing robust domestic growth.”


Asia Pacific optimism for jobs and personal finances remains high as sixty-two percent of Asia Pacific respondents indicated they are optimistic about jobs in the year ahead, rising four percentage points from the closing quarter last year compared to Latin America (45%), North America (41%), Middle East/Africa (33%) and Europe (23%). Likewise, sentiment towards personal finances remains positive, increasing three points to 62 percent.

Asia Pacific consumers are at least two times more likely to have spare cash than any other region in the world, with only seven percent of respondents indicating they have no spare cash, compared with 15 percent globally. Saving money continued to be of highest priority for Asia Pacific consumers in Q1 2013, with 62 percent indicating they save spare cash once essential living expenses have been covered – an increase of four percentage points versus prior quarter and 15 points higher than the global average.  Similarly, intentions to invest in stock and mutual funds (30%) and retirement funds (14%) also saw 1 to 2 point increases each over the last quarter. (See chart 2). 

Another form of investment for some is home improvements, with 23 percent of Asia Pacific consumers planning to spend on their homes, a five-point gain in the last quarter, Holidays and vacations outside the home remain the most common form of discretionary spending for Asia Pacific consumers, with 39% planning to spend on travel, an increase of 3 points over last quarter.  Discretionary spending in other categories like new clothes (35%), out of home entertainment (34%), and technology products (30%) remained stable in the latest quarter.

The biggest concern for Asia Pacific consumers remains the economy, with 16 percent stating this was their largest worry. Work/life balance came in second at 14 percent and job security was a close third at 13 percent.

“The Asia Pacific consumer continues to gain optimism, yet remains quite discerning and frugal, and will continue to prioritize saving and investment,” added Glennon.  “Opportunities to gain new relationships with consumers are abundant as the emerging middle class enters the market at a rapid pace, especially in markets like Indonesia, India, Thailand, Philippines and China.  Further premium products gain appeal to wealthier consumers who can now demonstrate their purchasing power through the brands or leisure activities they choose, while for basic needs they often continue to choose local lower cost options.  Understanding these nuances, which differ greatly from market-to-market, is critical to satisfying the needs of the Asia Pacific consumer and capturing a share of their spending.”

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, measures consumer confidence, major concerns, and spending intentions among more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access in 58 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism. In the latest round of the survey, conducted between February 17 and March 8, 2013, Asia Pacific was the only region globally to sit above the 100 point benchmark. 


Deanie Sultana, +61 431 483 176,