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Synthesis 2013 > An exacerbated sense of vulnerability

An exacerbated sense of vulnerability

As a consequence of the lasting crisis and increased anxieties, Europeans feel increasingly vulnerable.

With regard to the 17 risks that could affect the respondent’s personal situation, property or family, the percentage of Europeans who felt ‘totally unprotected’ increased (for all the risks tested without exception). The event against which they feel least protected (undoubtedly with good reason) continues to be a divorce or separation (76%; +2 points compared with 2012).

However, a majority of Europeans also consider themselves totally unprotected against 11 other risks, with loss of employment topping the list, whether with regard to their spouses/partners’ jobs (66%; +3) or their own jobs (60%; +4), even though unemployment benefit systems are in place in the countries surveyed (admittedly subject to a minimum contribution period that varies from one country to another). Most of the people surveyed do therefore have protection against this risk, but the high percentage of people who say they have ‘no protection’ and the increase in this percentage is very revealing of Europeans’ heightened sense of vulnerability: against a risk such as unemployment, the existing protection is no longer seen as adequate, particularly in countries such as Spain where long-term unemployment now stands at close to 10%.

A majority of the people in the countries already surveyed in 2012 believe they are now at greater risk of encountering financial difficulties than they were five years ago (66%; down by 1 point versus 2012), at greater risk ofsliding into poverty (63%; +4) or of losing their jobs (56%; +5). This sentiment of being increasingly vulnerable is inextricably twined with the impression a majority of Europeans have of suffering a real social regression compared with their parents at the same age (50%) and which cannot be limited to the effects of a temporary economic crisis. Across Europe, the feeling of being worn out and declassed dominates, with a very few salutary exceptions. In these conditions, where Europeans seem to be trying to limit their losses to the greatest extent possible rather than trying to win anything, risk taking has obviously fallen from grace. However, in certain conditions, it is an irreplaceable growth engine.

An exacerbated sense of vulnerability

Regards d'experts

guillemet début As a certain number of surveys show, there may be a gap between the risk perceived on a personal level and the risk as it is perceived for others. We tend to overweight the risk for ourselves, while we have quite an accurate view of the overall level of risk…

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guillemet début We can see a general increase in the feeling of a loss of status. However, once again, there is a phenomenon of collective pessimism. In reality, only the latest generation can complain of being less privileged than the previous one

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guillemet début There is a group effect. Being pessimistic is considered good form, but this does not mean that you really believe in it. Through a copycat effect, people tell themselves: If I’m not unhappy, I’m not with everyone else

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guillemet début During the “Glorious 30” period in France, what made people demonstrate in the streets was not unemployment, but inflation. The same is true for the people who are taking to the streets in Turkey, Brazil or China at the moment. Everyone is affected by inflation, whereas only 10% are affected by unemployment. If people were unhappy during France’s Glorious 30-year period, this was because they were afraid of losing their purchasing power. 1968 was also to say: “we’ve been robbed

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guillemet début Looking beyond the risk assessment that may be carried out by individuals, we can ask ourselves whether a cultural pessimism exists in certain countries, which is part of their mindsets and has been for a long time.

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guillemet début In Spain, the sense of a loss of status is less marked than in France because the Spanish are able to make comparisons. People became rich only recently, they have only had a welfare state for a short amount of time, and the memories of earlier years are still present. So, things are put into perspective.

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guillemet début French people lead the way when it comes tofeeling a sense of decline or loss of status. In Germany, it is the exact opposite.

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guillemet début La Fabrique Spinoza, a think tank, has made a study on the relation between crisis and happiness. It shows that there is a link between perceived happiness and the short-term economic climate, not the long-term level of wealth or economic growth.

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guillemet début There are training programmes to learn how to protect oneself from risk psychologically. Christophe André, who worked with Boris Cyrulnik on resilience, explains that the best teacher of optimism is reality. He invites people to take a step back and look at what actually happened, making them realise that their misgivings very often turned out to be exaggerated. This helps them recover a measure of serenity.

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