The state of welfare states

February 07, 2013, 10:19 AM GMT+0

YouGov surveys for the IPPR show Brits favour benefit cuts, while French and Danish prioritise reductions in defence spending.

YouGov research for the IPPR shows wide discrepancies across three European countries into how governments should spend their money. The survey shows that Britons want reductions in unemployment benefit and also believe maternity or paternity leave pay should be reduced so that other areas can receive extra funding. In contrast, people in France and Denmark think that decreasing defence budgets should be the priority for their governments. The public in all three countries believe spending on child benefit should be reduced.

People in all three European countries favour increased funding for public services, with healthcare, policing and education receiving the most support. Improved state pensions also receive strong support in Britain, France and Denmark. However, there are significant age differences as in each country at least three times more people in the oldest age group say the government should prioritise spending increases for pensions when compared with those under 25s.

Divides over who deserves benefits

The survey also reveals differences in British, French and Danish opinion over who should have access to benefits and public services such as state pensions, social housing and unemployment benefits.

  • Pluralities of people in Britain (48%) and France (44%) think state pensions should only be available to those who have contributed into the system, whether by working or caring for someone, while 40% of Danes say state pensions should be provided equally to every citizen affected regardless of their need or contribution to the system
  • Around four in ten Danish (42%) and French (39%) people believe social housing should be aimed at those in need. This is compared to 41% of Brits that think only people who have contributed into the system should have access to social housing
  • A majority (57%) of the French public and pluralities in Britain (49%) and Denmark (42%) say that unemployment benefit should be given to those who have made contributions into the system, regardless of their level of need

Changes to the welfare state

British public opinion is divided over how the government should manage welfare provisions in the current economic climate. Almost three in ten (29%) people favour reductions in benefits that go to those on higher incomes, while a quarter (25%) think benefits should be targeted more towards those in need. 24% support limiting benefits to those who have contributed into the system.

In contrast, almost half (46%) of the French prioritise scaling back benefits for people earning higher wages. This is compared to 17% who say only those who have contributed into the system should receive payments while 16% think benefits should be focused on those in need of them. Meanwhile, Danes favour greater targeting of benefits, with three in ten (30%) agreeing that benefits should be scaled back for wealthier groups and the same amount support a greater focus of benefits on the poor.

See the YouGov/IPPR British sample survey results

See the YouGov/IPPR French sample survey results

See the YouGov/IPPR Danish sample survey results

See the IPPR report: European Welfare States After the Crisis