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Synthesis 2013 > Germany

Germany 2013

Germany appears even more this year among the countries where encouraging signs can be seen. With a decreasing level of concern and sense of vulnerability, their aversion to risk has even eroded.

The level of concern of Germans remains high but has decreased, except when it comes to unemployment

Germans remain more preoccupied than the European average by each of the seventeen risks tested that can affect someone’s health, property or family members (ranging from the death of a member of the household to a possible loss of autonomy or the theft of one’s car). Each of these risks is as well a source of concern to a majority of Germans, from the possibility of a divorce or separation (52% compared to 38% on average) to a serious illness affecting a member of the household (84% compared to 78% on average). On average, Germans are concerned by 12.1 of these 17 risks (compared to 10.8 for the European average).

However, the level of concern of Germans has decreased in almost all the dimensions tested (15 out of 17 risks). The decrease is especially significant when it comes to the least severe of these risks, for example a temporary incapacity (66%; -7 points compared to last year). However, their level of anxiety has worsened in the two dimensions that are linked with unemployment: 57% (+4) are now worried to lose their job and 59% (+4) are worried their partner could lose his / hers. Germans do feel now more concerned by these risks than the European average.
Germans also tend to cite more this year the risk of unemployment among the three risks that worry them the most (29%; +2), although their fears are still dominated by financial risks (48%; -2) and medical risks (42%; -11).

Only a minority of Germans feel more vulnerable today than 5 years ago

Unlike the European average, only a minority of Germans feel more vulnerable than 5 years ago towards a series of risks: experiencing financial difficulties (44% consider they are more at risk today, compared to 62% for the European average), being plunged into a precarious situation (42%; compared to 59% on average) or losing their job (30% compared to 51%).

A relative majority also considers they are better protected against these risks than 5 years ago (41%; +2 compared to 32% on average). Only 26% (-5) believe on the contrary they are less well protected (compared to 40% on average) and 33% (+3) consider they are “neither better nor less well protected”.

Moreover, Germany is the country where the sense of social decline is the weakest: only 7% of the German population consider that their social situation is worse than the one of their parents at their age (compared to 50% on average), the majority having the feeling their situation is better (55% compared to 29% on average).

An effective welfare system

Germany is among the countries surveyed, the place where people have the best opinion of their welfare system: 65% consider it works well (compared to 43% on average).
Unsurprisingly, a large majority of Germans also believe their country is more advanced than its European neighbours when it comes to social welfare (70% compared to 38% on average). Among them, 21% even think it is “much more advanced” (compared to 9%).

Germans still consider that the social welfare system of their country should be reformed to guarantee its future: 49% consider it must be extensively reformed and 45% that it must be reformed, but only marginally.

Germans are however much less worried than the European average by possible cuts in public spending when it comes to social welfare: a majority even believes the public sector in Germany will raise its level of support for family assistance (60% compared to 30% on average), retirement pensions (54% compared to 29%) and inability to care for oneself (52% compared to 27%). In the other areas tested, only a minority expects a raise in the levels of public assistance, but people who think they will decrease are also in the minority: only 24% consider the public sector will lower it when it comes to disability (compared to 48% on average), 25% for the assistance for the neediest (compared to 50%), 27% for the unemployment benefits (compared to 53%), 33% for the optical and dental treatment or care (compared to 52%), 35% for hospitalization (compared to 53%) and 36% for the reimbursement of medication and medical examinations (compared to 57%).

German citizens are also much more confident that the state will keep a central role in the social welfare system of their country: 43% consider it will have an ever larger role (compared to 24% on average), 34% think it will stay the same (compared to 27% on average) and only 23% (compared to 49% on average) believe it will get an ever smaller role.
Germans are also convinced that other actors will take an increasing role in social welfare in the coming years: families first (67%), but also private and mutual insurance companies (63%) or associations (39%).

Despite the fact Germans are often pictured as enthusiastic promoters of deficit reduction, the models of protection that best meet their current expectations are the ones who reaffirm the principles of solidarity. Only 32% cite among their three preferred models the one in which “every effort is made to balance the budget by offsetting expenses and deficits” (compared to 33% on average).

Germans taking risks in spite of themselves?

The level of concern and feeling of vulnerability of Germans having decreased, their perception of risk has evolved. Their cultural aversion to risk is slightly less strong than last year: 41% (+3) have now the feeling that risk is promoted in their country, 39% (+2) that in order to be successful, it’s better to take a lot of risks, and 36% (+8) that young people should be taught that in life, you have to be able to take risks, even if you end up paying the price of failing.

A majority of Germans remain however risk-averse. Germans nevertheless have the feeling that they are taking a lot of risks (72% think so, the highest score among all the countries surveyed).
This paradox summarizes well the position of Germany today: Germans are ready to take measured risks for themselves, but not to be endangered by the risks taken by others.

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