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U.S. Leads in Workers Living 'Paycheck to Paycheck'

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Typical U.S. workers with full-time jobs at big employers seem to have less capacity to cope with an illness, disability or other financial shock than workers with comparable jobs in most other developed countries.

About 45% of the U.S. workers that Willis Towers Watson said they “live paycheck to paycheck.”

The U.S. workers were noticeably more likely to say they live paycheck to paycheck than the workers in the 11 other developed markets included.

The U.S. workers were also more likely to report living paycheck to paycheck than workers in all but four of the 10 developing countries included.

(Related: Socially Responsible Credit Is a Key to Wellness)

U.S. workers seem to be noticing their lack of short-term financial security, Willis Towers Watson analysts write in a new survey report.

“The U.S. presents a particularly gloomy picture, with financial satisfaction plunging by 13 percentage points between 2015 and 2017 — from 48% to 35%,” the analysts write.

The Survey

The Willis Towers Watson analysts based part of the data in the report on a survey of about 19,000 workers in 12 markets that the analysts classified as developed: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The analysts also collected survey data from about 12,000 in 10 countries the analysts classified as developing: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, South Africa, the Philippines and Turkey.

The workers who took the survey were not necessarily typical workers in their markets. They were working for the kinds of big, modern employers that might use Willis Towers Watson to run their benefits programs.

Survey Data Details

Canada and Germany were the developed countries in the survey with the second highest number of participating workers who said they live paycheck to check.

About 40% of the participants in each of those countries said they live paycheck to paycheck.

Hong Kong was the market with the fewest workers saying they live paycheck to paycheck. Although Hong Kong is famous for its high housing costs, just 19% of the workers there said they live paycheck to paycheck.

In the developing countries, the percentage of participating workers who said they live from paycheck to paycheck ranged from just 32%, in India, up to 54%, in South Africa.

In addition to India, the countries with workers more likely to have a financial cushion than U.S. workers are Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines and China.

Aside from South Africa, the only countries with workers less likely to have financial cushion are Chile, Brazil and Turkey.  

—Read Financial Stress Has Toxic Effects on Employees  on ThinkAdvisor.

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