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Who’s afraid of public debt?

January 24, 2013

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Many Germans view the high level of public debt as the biggest threat that their country currently faces. In the recent Eurobarometer survey conducted on behalf of the European Commission 34% of the respondents in Germany named public debt as one of the two main problems. This is by far the highest number in Europe. A significant proportion of citizens who express their concern about the evolution of public debt can also be found in Austria (24%) and Belgium (23%).

Other main issues identified by the respondents to the Eurobarometer, which was carried out during November 2012, were the threat of inflation (29%), the economic situation in general, as well as unemployment (22% each).

However, the fact that in countries with high public debt levels relatively few respondents mentioned this as one of the main issues should not automatically be interpreted as disregard for the importance of sustainable public finances. The explanation is rather that the economic situation and the high unemployment rates in these countries provide much more cause for concern than in Germany.

Unemployment is considered the most important issue in 18 out of 27 EU member states. This is not only true for those countries hit hardest by the current crisis and forced to contend with unemployment rates of up to 26%, such as Spain (78% of respondents), Cyprus (73%), Ireland (65%), Greece (65%), and Portugal (58%). Even in Sweden (65%) and the Netherlands (55%), whose unemployment rates of 8.1% and 5.6% respectively are well below the EU average, the labour market situation is the biggest cause for concern. In Cyprus, Spain, Greece, and the Netherlands, more than half of the respondents also said they were particularly concerned about the current economic situation. In the face of the prevailing economic uncertainty, other potential problem areas such as education, healthcare or immigration are much less important at the moment.




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