Majority would pay higher taxes to resolve housing crisis, study finds

Research also suggests more than two-thirds list financial security in old age as top risk

The majority of Irish people believe the Government should make housing more affordable even if it means raising taxes, a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found.

The study of 22,000 people in 21 OECD countries also suggests that more than two-thirds of Irish people list “financial security in old age” as a top risk.

When presented with a range of policy options, Irish people were most likely to identify better health care (61 per cent), better pensions (46 per cent), and more affordable housing (41 per cent) as the public supports they need most to feel more economically secure.

The survey about perceived social and economic risks suggested most Irish people are willing to pay for investments in these policy areas even if it means that taxes rise.


“In these and other policy areas, the Irish are more likely than people in other countries to say that they are willing to pay more in taxes to receive better public-services and benefits,” the survey said.

Housing and health

The findings tally with recent polls here, suggesting much of the electorate was unhappy with public services related to housing and health. In the short run, the OECD study suggested people here fear falling ill and making ends meet.

Some 52 per cent of people listed “becoming ill or disabled” as a top-three risk in the next year or two.

As a whole, the study suggested a strong majority of people in wealthy countries want to tax the rich more and there is broad support for building up the welfare state in most countries.

In all of the 21 countries surveyed, more than half of those people polled said they were in favour when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD gave no definition of rich.

Higher taxation of the rich has emerged as a political lightning rod in many wealthy countries, with US Democrats proposing hikes and "yellow vest" protesters in France demanding the wealthy bear a bigger tax burden.

Support was highest in Portugal and Greece, both emerging from years of economic crisis, at nearly 80 per cent compared with an average of 68 per cent, the OECD said.

Social welfare

The OECD study also found deep discontent with governments’ social welfare polices, which many people said were insufficient, the OECD said.

On average, only 20 per cent said they could easily receive public benefits if needed while 56 per cent thought it would be difficult to get benefits, the survey found. People were on average particularly concerned about access to good quality, affordable long-term care for the elderly, housing and health services. Not only did people say they were not getting their fair share given what they paid into the system, people in all countries except Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands did not think that their governments were heeding their views.

“These feelings spread across most social groups, and are not limited just to those deemed ‘left behind’,” the OECD said in an analysis of the survey’s results. The feeling of injustice was even higher among the highly educated and high-income households, it added.

In light of the high level of discontent, a majority of people wanted their government to do more in all countries except France and Denmark, whose welfare systems are among the most generous in the world. – Additional reporting by Reuters

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times