Public perceptions and the future of social protection in the United Kingdom: Insights from the OECD Risks that Matter survey

Social spending has fallen in the United Kingdom over the past decade and a half, reflecting efforts to limit public expenditures in the wake of the financial crisis. How do people in the UK feel about this slimmed-down version of the welfare state, and what would they like from social protection going forward? Drawing on results from the OECD Risks That Matter survey, a cross-national survey with representative samples in 27 countries, this report examines perceptions of economic risks and attitudes towards social protection in the UK. Results point to a country that feels relatively economically vulnerable and largely dissatisfied with public benefits and services, especially in comparison to its peers in the G7 and other wealthy OECD countries (e.g. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands). Many people in the UK feel that public benefits are both insufficient and hard to access, and few believe the government would provide adequate income support should they lose their income. Looking forward, large numbers want more from government. Many are willing to spend more on social programmes, with health care the highest priority. Two-thirds think that the rich should be taxed more to help support the poor. These results are consistent with evidence from UK sources that suggest attitudes in the UK have been shifting in favour of increased taxation, spending, and redistribution to keep pace with evolving needs.