Mar 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Nervous, angry rich countries

Data: OECD survey; Table: Axios Visuals

The world's richest countries are full of people who don't feel economically secure, and they don't trust the safety nets their governments have set up, according to a survey of 22,000 people in 21 OECD countries.

Why it matters: It's evidence of a worldwide wave of economic anxiety at a time when people in these countries should be feeling more secure. Per Bloomberg: "People are unhappy with social policies even as evidence shows they are living safer, healthier and longer lives thanks to those very policies."

The big picture: The anxiety goes far beyond the U.S. People in these countries think they don't have enough access to benefits like health care, housing and long-term care.

  • They're also resentful about public benefits, convinced that they don't get enough for the amount of taxes they pay and that other people are getting too much.

By the numbers (average across the 21 countries):

  • Only 20% believe they'd be able to use public benefits if they needed them.
  • Just 25% believe their government would give them enough income support if they lost their job or became a parent.
  • Just 20% think they'd get enough income support in case of illness, disability or old age.
  • 59% don't think they get their fair share of public benefits for the amount of taxes they pay.
  • Two-thirds believe other people get public benefits they don't deserve.

And they don't think they're being heard: About 60% of people in these countries believe their government doesn't listen to them in designing social policies.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Steve LeVine: Disaffection, distrust and insecurity have dominated politics across continents since 2016, and the survey shows that these drivers are not dissipating, but growing more powerful.

  • In coming elections, the battleground will be to most persuasively navigate the grievous worries of what appears to be the clear majority across the world's most advantaged populations.

The bottom line: President Trump and the 2020 Democrats will have to compete for these constituencies — because this kind of anxiety is broad and powerful and goes beyond the usual party lines.

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