Unsurprisingly, given the increasingly drastic consequences of the economic crisis in Europe and a heightened sense of vulnerability to its consequences, a majority of the Europeans surveyed were critical of their respective systems of social protection: on average 57% consider that their national system does not function properly while 43% consider that it does.
But these averages mask very considerable national differences.
In three of the countries surveyed, a substantial majority of respondents consider that their respective systems work well: in Germany (65%), Sweden (64%) and France (61%). In Germany and France, respondents also feel that their system of social protection is more advanced than those of other European countries (70% of Germans and 62% of French respondents think this). In the case of Swedish respondents, maybe less chauvinist, only 37% felt this way, only a little higher than the percentage that considered their system is ‘neither more nor less advanced’ than those of neighbouring countries, they themselves admittedly benefiting from the ‘Scandinavian model’. These are also the three countries that spend most on social protection as a percentage of GDP (33.8% for France, 30.7% for Germany and 30.4% for Sweden in 2010, according to Eurostat figures).
In contrast, in Poland, Italy and Spain, the large majority of respondents consider that their system does not operate properly: 86% in Poland, 77% in Italy and 70% in Spain. Unsurprisingly, respondents in these countries also believe that their system is less advanced than those of other countries (76% in Italy, 75% in Spain and 71% in Poland), probably for different reasons: affected by budgetary cutbacks and under pressure in Italy and Spain and still at an embryonic stage in Poland (Polish spending on social protection in 2010 represented only 18.9% of GDP according to Eurostat figures, versus 29.4% for the EU27) and Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s reforms are contested (public healthcare, pensions) .
In the United Kingdom, views are more mixed: 55% of British respondents consider that their system does not work properly while 45% believe it does. The British state system has many critics in view of its limitations: lack of investment, bureaucratic nature and long waiting lists for medical care. Also, although the United Kingdom spends more than the European average on health, medical care and invalidity, it spends a significantly smaller percentage on unemployment, which is one of the most acute concerns for Europeans at the moment. Despite this, a relative majority consider their system is more advanced than that of other countries (47% versus 31% who think it less advanced and 22% who consider it neither more nor less advanced).
(2) Puissances d’hier et de demain : L’Etat du Monde 2014, by Bertrand Badie, Dominique Vidal, Philippe Rekacewicz et alia (5 September 2013), p.227
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