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OECD survey reveals many unhappy with public services and benefits

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OECD in March 2019 released a new survey, “Risks that Matter”, which asked over 22,000 people aged 18 to 70 years old in 21 countries* about their worries and concerns, and their opinions on how well they think their governments help them tackle social and economic risks.

The nationally-representative survey finds that many people in OECD countries believe public services and social benefits are difficult to reach and inadequate. They are concerned about falling ill and not being able to make ends meet, and more than half say they do not receive their fair share of benefits given the taxes they pay, and two-thirds believe others get more than they deserve.

Making ends meet is a particularly common worry for those on low incomes and in countries that were hit hard by the financial crisis. Older people are most often worried about their health, while younger people are frequently concerned with securing adequate housing. When asked about the longer-term, across all countries, getting by in old age is the most commonly cited worry.

People are also dissatisfied with current social policy and nearly three out of four people say they want their government to do more to protect their social and economic security. Only a minority of respondents say they are satisfied with access to services like health care, housing, and long-term care. Many believe the government would not be able to provide a proper safety net if they lost their income due to job loss, illness or old age.

Public Benefits Hard to Reach

More than half think they would not be able to easily access public benefits if they needed them. People in every country surveyed, with the exception of Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, indicated that their government does not incorporate the views of people like them when designing social policy. This share rises to more than two-thirds of respondents in a number of countries, including Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Portugal, and Slovenia. The sense of not being part of the policy debate increases at higher levels of education and income, while feelings of injustice are stronger among those from high-income households.

People are worried about financial security in old age across all countries, and most are willing to pay more to support public pension systems. Almost 40% (average) say they would be willing to pay an extra 2% of their own income in taxes for better health care and pensions.

Respondents in Ireland say they would be happy to pay more in tax for better health care (51%), followed by Portugal (49%), Greece and Chile (both 48%). Respondents in Israel (49%), Chile (51%) and Lithuania (53%) say they would be prepared to pay an extra 2% more in tax for better pensions.

More than half of respondents overall say their governments should tax the rich more than they currently do, in order to support the poor. The share rises to 75% or more in Greece, Germany, Portugal, and Slovenia.

Download the report and country notes.

* Countries involved were Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and the United States.

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