KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — A recent survey found that contracting Covid-19 was not what Malaysians worried about most.

While 77 per cent of those surveyed said they were worried about being infected, a whopping 89 per cent were most fearful about losing their jobs.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer also reported that they were also concerned about cyber security (77 per cent), climate change (76 per cent) and losing their personal freedom (71 per cent).

The pandemic also seems to have heightened fears they had pre-pandemic: 65 per cent worry that they will lose their jobs as concerns about the pandemic accelerates the move to automation and more than half of those surveyed (53 per cent) have “witnessed layoffs or reductions in the workforce of the company they work for.”

The 21st annual trust barometer surveyed 28 countries and over 33,000 respondents, or about 1,150 per nation, with a fifth of the respondents consisting of those from the high income bracket with college education, which the pollsters defined as “informed public” aged between 25 to 64.

The rest are defined as the “mass”, with or without education, representing 83 per cent of the global population.

The barometer gauged respondents’ trust in four key institutions in each respective country:  the government, businesses, NGOs and the media.

Malaysia saw the scores in all four sectors rise in this year’s trust index, but the consultancy said trust is built on fragile foundations, which it attributed to public fear of the pandemic.

“The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that trust in all Malaysian institutions...has increased as a result of assertive action in response to the pandemic,” it said in a statement.

“However, in the era of information bankruptcy, trust remains fragile and dependent on how institutions fare in leading with real world actions in the post-pandemic era.”

Malaysia achieved an average Trust Index score of 66 points, rising by six points from 2020 and climbing two spots to the 7th position on the Global Trust Index ranking.

Much of the trust was towards employers, who received the highest score of 68 points. The firm said its survey revealed most people have lost faith in the “traditional markers of information credibility”, leading to an epidemic of misinformation.

Journalists scored the lowest trust score at just 51 points while government officials scored two points higher.

The survey showed “Malaysians are seeking alternative sources for information, increasingly leaning in on social media (+9 points) and search (+4 points) to shape their opinions rather than conventional media channels.”

The survey found that only 29 per cent of Malaysians practise good information hygiene, which is defined as knowing the best practices to manage one’s information diet, with up to 65 per cent having the tendency to share or forward news items that they find to be interesting.

From this group, only a third practice good information hygiene, suggesting that a significant amount of unvetted information is being consumed and disseminated among Malaysians.

This distrust in the media could have also fed into the vaccine hesitancy among respondents, Edelman suggested. Only 28 per cent among those willing to get vaccinated said they preferred to do so as soon as possible, whereas 41 per cent would prefer waiting six months to a year.

In this climate of suspicion towards both the media and government, businesses have emerged as the single most credible and trusted source of information for most Malaysians.

Up to 66 per cent had voted “My Employer” as the most trusted source of information to help navigate the crisis, even higher than government communications (60 per cent) and news media reports (63 per cent).

Edelman said this presents the greatest opportunity for businesses to gain trust, by serving as a guardian of information quality, which increased the likelihood of trust by over five per cent.