In the eyes of a majority of Europeans, risk-taking is still considered a danger to be avoided (60%, up 1 point on 2013). Only 40% of them would tend to see it more as a stimulus.
Risk aversion remains particularly strong and is getting even stronger in Spain (75%, up 2 points on 2013, up 9 points on 2012), in France (70%, up 3 on 2013 and up 8 on 2012), in Germany (66%, up 4 and up 9) and in Italy (63%, up 4 and up 5). It remains relatively stable in the United Kingdom (58%, down 1 point on 2013 and up 6 points on 2012). This rejection of risk is in the minority in Sweden (42%, stable on 2013), however, and now in Poland (48%, down 3).
Nationality aside, great differences exist in the way risk is perceived according to the socio-demographic profiles of the individuals in question and their social roles: more women thus consider risk to be a danger (63% against 58% of men) and the same applies to older people (66% of the 55s and over, against 53% of under 35s).
While income levels have little influence on the perception of risk, education levels do have a very large impact on the view people have of risk taking (72% of Europeans with a low level of education see risk as a danger, against 58% of those with a medium to high level of education).
Europeans also have even less of a feeling than they did in 2013 that risk-taking is encouraged in the European Union (46%, down 4 points) and in their respective countries (39%, down 2). It is in France that the feeling that risk-taking is encouraged is at its lowest (27%, down 2 points on 2013 and down 5 points on 2012). Only the Spanish (48%) and Italians (36%) have the feeling that risk-taking is encouraged more than in 2013. In all the other countries, this feeling has declined or is at best stable (in Poland and Sweden). Whatever their country of residence, however, Europeans still have the feeling that risk-taking is encouraged less than in the United States: 75% (down 2 points, however) consider that risk-taking is encouraged across the Atlantic.
European attitudes to risk remain highly ambivalent, somewhere between aversion and attraction. They are also divided as to the attitude to be adopted to achieve success: while 52% of them consider that in order to succeed, it is best to be careful not to take too many risks, 48% believe the best way is to take a lot of risks. These figures have remained stable in almost all countries.
In France, the trend is towards greater caution: 55% of French people thus consider that it is better not to take too many risks in order to succeed (up 2 points on 2013 and up 4 points on 2011). The number of French people declaring that they take risks themselves is also lower than in 2013 (51%, down 8 points). This year, France has become the country in which people claim to take the fewest risks. Germany remains the country where people declare that they take the most risks, but the Germans are nonetheless much more prudent than in previous years (66%, down 6 points on 2013 and down 11 points on 2012).
If risks are to be taken, it is best to be well prepared: those Europeans who claim to take the most risks individually are more qualified than the average and richer. It is also necessary to have a feeling that risk-taking is encouraged socially in the light of their profile: men, young people and those individuals who feel that risk-taking is encouraged in their country are those of whom the largest numbers claim to take risks individually.
If people are to be ready to take risks, it is essential that they know they are well protected. At a time when Europeans are becoming increasingly aware of the failings of their respective national welfare protection systems1, they find themselves faced with a choice: to avoid risk at all costs even if it might mean depriving themselves of any chance of success, or to turn to new strategies to bypass these failing systems. The rise of sharing and collaborative consumption is a part of this trend.
1Cf. Wave 2 of the Observatory on the theme of welfare protection in Europe
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