Synthesis 2013 > Great Britain

Great Britain 2013

Great Britain stands rather in the middle of this spectrum and this year’s results reflect the stagnation of its economy.

A moderate level of concern which however tends to increase

British people are rather less 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). The only risk that concerns British citizens more than the European average is the risk of their home being burgled or their personal belongings being damaged (67% fear this possibility, compared to 63% on average). British people feel on average concerned by 9.6 of these risks, compared to 10.8 for the European average.

However, the level of concern of British citizens has increased in all but 2 of the 17 dimensions tested. Now, 9.6 of these risks are on average a source of concern to British people, compared to 8.9 in 2012. The possibility of contracting a serious illness is what worries British citizens the most, be it for themselves (75%; +5) or their closed ones (73%; +5).

British people are less worried by the risk of unemployment than the European average: 44% of the British respondents feel concerned by the possibility of losing their job (compared to 56% of the European average) and 35% by the fact their spouse/partner could lose his/hers as well (compared to 49%). Moreover, only 29% (compared to 38% on average) cite unemployment among the 3 most worrying risks to them. According to British citizens, financial risks (46%), medical risks (43%), computer-related risks (36%) and even road risks (35%) are more worrying than the perspective of unemployment.

Mixed judgments about the British welfare system

British people have mixed feelings when it comes to judging their social welfare system: a short majority of them consider it works poorly (55%, a proportion close to the 57% European average), when 45% of them consider it works well.

At the same time, despite the fact a majority has the feeling they contribute more to the social welfare system of their country than they benefit from it (54% compared to 68% on average), Great Britain is among the surveyed countries the place where people have the least this feeling. British people, more than any others, believe either their contribution is smaller than the benefits they get (18%) or that their contribution equals the benefits (28%).

A relative majority considers that their country is more advanced than its European neighbours when it comes to social welfare (47% compared to 38% on average). On the contrary, only 31% consider it is less advanced in this regard (compared to 45% on average), and 22% think it is neither more nor less advanced (compared to 17%).

As a consequence, British people tend to encourage a bit less than other Europeans a change in the social welfare system: 95% sure believe it should be reformed, but among them, people favouring a radical change are a bit less numerous than on average (50% compared to 57% think the system must be “extensively” reformed).

British citizens seem to consider that the current levels of public assistance in their country are quite generous. Then indeed emphasize less than the average on the need to raise public levels of assistance. A majority sure considers that the state should raise its levels of help when it comes to retirement pensions (67%; compared to 79% on average), inability to care for oneself (75%; a proportion similar to the European average), assistance for the neediest (70% compared to 71%), disability (65% compared to 75%), hospitalization (58% compared to 66%) or optical and dental treatment or care (50% compared to 73%). However, unlike the European average, only a minority of British citizens consider the public sector should raise its levels of assistance when it comes to reimbursement of medication and medical examinations (40% compared to 64%), family assistance (43% compared to 64%) or unemployment benefits (32% compared to 59%).

Given the current context, a majority believes that the public levels of assistance will decrease in the coming years. British respondents are especially convinced the State will lower its assistance when it comes to unemployment benefits (69% including 26% who think it will “greatly lower” them).
British people remain however more than the average attached to an important role of the State in social welfare: 92% consider that in an effective model of social welfare, the State has if not the biggest role (45% think it should have the biggest role compared to 30% on average), an important role to play (47% compared to 56% on average). British people tend to think a bit less than others that in the coming years, the State will play en ever smaller role in social welfare (45% compared to 49%). They are also a bit less convinced that other actors will have an increasing role in this regard: private and mutual insurance companies (51% compared to 60%), families (54% compared to 59%) or associations (40% compared to 42%).
In the eyes of British people, the State is and will remain in the years to come the main actor of social welfare.

A moderate sense of vulnerability

In Great Britain, the feeling of vulnerability has rather less increased than in the other countries surveyed: 57% consider now that they have more risk than 5 years ago to experience financial difficulties (compared to 62% on average), 47% more risk of being plunged into a precarious situation (compared to 59%), 47% more risk of losing their job (compared to 51%) and 30% more risk of experiencing family related difficulties (compared to 33%).

Moreover, only 27% (-3) of them consider they are less well protected against these risks than 5 years ago (compared to 40% for the European average). 37% (+1) consider they are neither better nor less well protected, and 36% (+2) even believe they are better protected. Although criticized, the British social welfare system has certainly succeeded in cushioning part of the effects of the crisis.

A cautious approach to risk-taking

Despite the fact British people feel rather less vulnerable than the European average; they seem to have adopted a wait-and-see approach when it comes to risk-taking.
A majority of them consider now risk as a danger to be avoided (59%; +7). Great Britain is now the country where people are the most convinced that in order to be successful, it is better to be careful and not take too many risks (69%; +3).
They themselves have the feeling they are taking less risks than last year (59%; -7).

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