Executive summary

This report presents the main findings from the OECD’s 2022 Risks the Matter (RTM) survey, offering insights for policy makers seeking to improve social protection systems. The 2022 RTM survey takes the pulse of perceived economic health and social security among 27 000 working-age respondents in 27 OECD countries. It asks people about their perceived risks, about their satisfaction with their government’s social protection systems, and how they think public policies can better ensure their social and economic security.

The latest wave of the RTM survey was carried out during the persistent rise in costs of living and the uncertainty about energy supply at the end of 2022. As such, RTM provides information on how households deal with price rises while recovering from the pandemic and facing longer-term challenges to social protection systems, including pressured healthcare systems, the changing world of work, and population ageing.

The report finds that personal financial risks are at the top of respondents’ minds, and these worries appear to be growing over time. Compared to previous waves of RTM, the 2022 respondents think that their financial situation is worse now than one year prior, on average across countries. The latest respondents are also more pessimistic about the future. These findings are especially noteworthy given that the 2020 wave of RTM was fielded in the highly uncertain environment of the COVID-19 crisis, while the 2022 survey was conducted during the post-COVID labour market recovery.

Some subgroups fare worse than others: respondents in lower-income households, women, and younger people are more likely to report being worried about economic insecurity than their respective counterparts. Indeed, older adults tend to be more concerned about access to healthcare over the coming two years than about being able to pay their bills.

Satisfaction with social protection tends to be relatively high in the areas of education, public safety, and health. Satisfaction is lower when thinking about long-term care for older people, disability and incapacity-related needs, and housing services. However, it is important to note that all of these areas have room to improve. Overall, fewer than half of respondents think that they would have access to any of the key public services listed, which is similar to findings from 2020.

Many respondents also doubt that government support is reliable. Close to half (46%) of respondents report that they do not think they could easily receive public benefits if they needed them. Respondents also doubt that the level of income support would be (or is) high enough to support them through a period of income loss such as during illness or due to disability, unemployment, or having a child.

Respondents want governments to deal with the dual aim of ensuring economic security and improving access to good-quality healthcare. As in previous waves of the survey, respondents prioritise increased government spending in the top-three areas: health, old-age pensions, and long-term care services for elderly people. This focus on healthcare and support for older adults is consistent with findings from earlier waves of RTM and can be seen as part of a longer-term trend. Across countries, 60% of respondents say that they want their governments to tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor.

While perceptions of risks and desires for policy intervention can be influenced by many factors, the RTM survey provides a useful measurement tool for countries interested in understanding how their social protection systems are perceived. Governments may consider ways to make sure that interventions have the desired effect on target populations by using the existing evidence base and appropriate methods of policy evaluation. This can help make sure that government spending has optimal impact, and that it is seen and felt by populations.


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