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Key findings
  • Almost three-fourths (72%) of Tunisians say the country is heading in “the wrong direction.”
  • unisians view management of the economy (94%) as the most pressing issue for the government to address, followed by unemployment (45%), poverty (21%), and health (21%).
  • More than eight in 10 citizens (84%) describe the country’s economy as “fairly bad” or “very bad,” up 11 percentage points since 2020.
  • Tunisians' perceptions of their personal living conditions are increasingly negative (47%), particularly among the poorest (81%), the less educated (62%), and resident in the North West (59%) regions.
  • More than four in 10 Tunisians (44%) say they went without a cash income at least “several times” during the previous year, with more than one-third report repeated shortages of clean water (37%) and medical care (38%).

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been grappling with a struggling economy. According to the World Bank (2022a, b), the economy stagnated between 2011 and 2019, with average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of only 1.7%. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia- Ukraine war have compounded the country’s economic woes. Despite some recovery in GDP since a sharp -8.8% contraction in 2020, the country has not fully bounced back, with GDP growing by 4.3% in 2021 and 2.4% in 2022. The country has also experienced surging double-digit inflation, reaching 10.2% in 2023, with food prices increasing by 14.6%. Unemployment rates remain high in 2023 (15.2%), particularly among youth (38.8%) and the highly educated (24%) (Institut National de la Statistique, 2023a, b, c).

Poverty rates have also increased, with one-sixth of the country now classified as impoverished, and recurring food shortages have become a widespread issue (Institut National de la Statistique, 2021; Le Monde, 2022). The financial struggles of state-owned companies are becoming increasingly apparent, with several facing bankruptcy (Reuters, 2023). Meanwhile, when it comes to the private sector, Tunisia ranks 47th out of 51 economies in terms of entrepreneurship success, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2023).

To tackle these challenges, the Tunisian government has implemented stricter austerity measures with the aim of qualifying for support from the International Monetary Fund (2022) and reviving its economy (Reuters, 2022). Government spending on subsidies is projected to drop this year by 26.4%, while tax revenues will rise by 12.5%. However, a delay in IMF loan approval and a recent downgrade of Tunisian sovereign debt by the rating agency Moody’s (2023) pose a risk of default on financial obligations and leave the country one step away from bankruptcy. Standard & Poor’s (2023) has identified three potential scenarios for Tunisia’s economy in the near future, the most severe predicting financial default with a significant depreciation of the Tunisian dinar and a sharp rise in inflation.

How do ordinary Tunisians see these economic challenges?

Findings of the latest Afrobarometer survey in Tunisia reveal that an overwhelming majority say the country is heading in the wrong direction, with management of the economy seen as the most pressing issue. Negative assessments of the economy have increased sharply, and fewer than half think things will get better in the near future.

Levels of lived poverty have increased significantly as large proportions of the population experienced shortages of cash income, clean water, and medical care, and dissatisfaction with the government’s economic performance is high. An overwhelming majority support maintaining government subsidies of essential goods.

Mohamed Najib Ben Saad

Najib is the data quality officer at Afrobarometer