OECD survey shows willingness to tax rich to support poor

Most people living in advanced economies want to see their government increase taxes on the rich, and almost 40% would be willing to pay extra taxes to fund healthcare and pensions, according to an OECD survey of 21 countries

The research is based on a poll of over 22,000 people aged 18 to 70, who were asked about their worries and concerns and how well they think their government helps them tackle social and economic risks.

In response to the statement ‘should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor’, in every country surveyed, 60% of respondents picked ‘yes’ or ‘definitely yes’. In Greece, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, the share rose to 75% or more.

An average of almost 40% also said they would be willing to pay an extra 2% of their own income in taxes for better health care and pensions, with some age differences. Young people were most likely to prioritise better housing supports, for instance, and parents more likely than others to favour better education services.

Respondents in Ireland are the most likely to say they would be happy to pay more in tax for better health care (51%), followed by Portugal (49%), Greece and Chile (both 48%). Respondents in Israel (49%), Chile (51%) and Lithuania (53%) are the most likely to say they would be prepared to pay an extra 2% more in tax for better pensions.

More than half of respondents said they do not receive their fair share of benefits given the taxes they pay, a share that rises to three quarters or more in Chile, Greece, Israel and Mexico. Two-thirds believe others get more than they deserve.

Nearly three out of four people say they want their government to do more to protect their social and economic security. 

In every country surveyed except Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, most people say that their government does not incorporate the views of people like them when designing social policy. In a number of countries, including Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia, this share rises to more than two-thirds of respondents.

This sense of not being part of the policy debate increases at higher levels of education and income, while feelings of injustice are stronger among those from high-income households.

Angel Gurría, OECD secretary-general, said: ‘This is a wake-up call for policy makers. OECD countries have some of the most advanced and generous social protection systems in the world. They spend, on average, more than one-fifth of their GDP on social policies.

‘Yet, too many people feel they cannot count fully on their government when they need help. A better understanding of the factors driving this perception and why people feel they are struggling is essential to making social protection more effective and efficient. We must restore trust and confidence in government and promote equality of opportunity.’

The UK was not included among the countries in the survey, which were: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and the US.

Risks that Matter 2018 is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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