The ERGO Risk Report 2019 reveals the worries and fears of Germans

Less risk, more surveillance

Media Information, 12.09.2019

Germans are critical about artificial intelligence, are not prepared to spend a single euro on protecting their data and increasing numbers can envisage a digital surveillance state. The ERGO Risk Report was conducted under the scientific direction of Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. The current report focuses on the topic of digitalisation.

ERGO Risiko-Report 2019

“At ERGO our daily work involves examining risks and managing them for our customers”, says Mark Klein, Chairman of the Board of Management of ERGO Digital Ventures, commenting on the study. “We want to help raise awareness of digital issues – both the positive and the negative. Take, for example, the topic of data protection: 75 per cent of those interviewed are not prepared to pay for the protection of their data.”

“Compared to the 2018 ERGO Risk Report, we found that the risk literacy of the respondents has not improved, but instead has deteriorated”, adds Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. “However, one misperception has changed: the fear of terrorism has diminished, and there is a greater awareness of climate protection and natural disasters.”

Digitalisation: People place their trust in “real” intelligence
The Germans clearly reject artificial intelligence in certain areas of life: for instance, nine in ten people trust their physician more than they would a diagnosis made on the basis of artificial intelligence. And 85 per cent want a human carer rather than a nursing robot. When it comes to money, more than two thirds (69 per cent) trust a financial advisor significantly more than a virtual assistant.
While women tend to focus on the tried and tested, particularly for finances (74 per cent, men: 65 per cent), men seem to be more open to artificial intelligence. Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 are also more open-minded.

Digitalisation: Most Germans are not prepared to spend a single euro on data protection
Social media, like Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, collect their users’ data and sell these data to fund their platforms, which are provided free of charge to users. If users were to pay for the use of these online services, their data would be better protected. However, 75 per cent of Germans are not prepared to pay for the protection of their data. Young respondents between the ages of 18 and 40, the generation of frequent surfers, are most likely to be willing to spend five euros (26-27 per cent) or ten euros (8 per cent) on data protection. “In Germany there is a general lack of education in schools on the issue of data protection”, says Klein. “Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that people are currently so unwilling to pay for the protection of personal data.”

Digitalisation: China’s digital surveillance system is gaining acceptance in Germany
At the end of last year, the People’s Republic of China hit the headlines when it announced the introduction of a social credit system. According to this scheme, good financial, social and political behaviour would be “rewarded” with cheap loans or faster promotion. Bad behaviour, such as tax evasion, neglecting one’s parents or jaywalking, could be sanctioned. Many German media predicted that the introduction of a credit system comparable to that proposed by the Chinese government would be met in the West with large-scale protests. In fact, one in five respondents (20 per cent) would like to see a points system like this introduced; a further 12 per cent are undecided. A good two-thirds (68 per cent) are against the system. The overall tendency is that approval declines with increasing age: 18-30 years: 23 per cent, 31-40 years: 22 per cent, 51-60 and 60 plus: 18 per cent each.

Age: Despite fearing poverty in old age Germans save very little for the future
Although 39 per cent of Germans expressed a fear of experiencing poverty in old age, slightly more than a quarter of the respondents (28 per cent) do not put aside anything monthly for personal old-age provisions. This applied most frequently to the age group 18-30 (33 per cent) and the over-60s (36 per cent). Women often neglect to make personal provisions for old age: 32 per cent save nothing; the same applies to 24 per cent of men. People with a medium to high monthly household net income clearly have a greater scope when it comes to saving: they set aside a larger sum for personal old-age provisions than those earning a low income

Safety: Increasing fear of natural disasters
While fear of terrorism or war continues rank first among the safety risks feared most by Germans (55 per cent), its importance has dropped by about one fifth compared to the 68 per cent reported in the previous year. Rising up the list are the consequences of climate change: Germans are very concerned about the effects on the environment, with 40 per cent of those interviewed worried about storms and natural disasters. The 18-30 year olds (41 per cent) and women (44 per cent) were marginally more likely to fear this risk than the other respondents. The fear of becoming a victim of violent crime (2018: 46 per cent, 2019: 40 per cent) has decreased. On the other hand, fear of data theft (26 per cent) is significantly lower than fear of traffic accidents (38 per cent) or burglary (30 per cent). Both younger people and middle-aged respondents (31 per cent each) were slightly more likely to see data theft as a threat.

Health: Recipe for a long life – smile, please!
Nearly one third (30 per cent) of respondents believe that having a positive attitude to life can help one to live longer. Just under one fifth believes that regular medical check-ups can have the same effect. Roughly one in four believes that sport and exercise is the key to a long life. In contrast, risks like a poor diet and the consumption of nicotine are greatly underestimated: while nearly one in two respondents correctly stated that smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers, when asked what they could do personally to ensure a long life, only 12 per cent of Germans stated that giving up smoking was an option.

Money: Cash is king
Ninety-one per cent of Germans like to have notes and coins in their purse (2018: 93 per cent). Almost without exception, women (93 per cent) and men (89 per cent) want to continue using cash. Young people are slightly more open to change: in the 18-30 age group 16 per cent could imagine life without cash, as can 13 per cent of the 31-40 age group. At 94 per cent, the over-60s overwhelmingly support the continued use of cash. Does this mean that paper money and coins are a symbol of continuity and safety in everyday life for them, and more so than other groups? Skilled workers and the self-employed (95 per cent each) reject the abolition of cash; civil servants (14 per cent), white-collar workers (12 per cent), as well as those with a job (11 per cent) are somewhat more open to a cashless life than people without a job (7 per cent).

“In natural disasters in particular the second ERGO Risk Report shows that public opinion and perception can change very quickly – provided people have sufficient access to valid information. However, the Report also clearly shows that this is not the case for the topics Age, Health, Safety, Money, and especially Digitalisation”, says Gigerenzer, summing up the results. “Here, the state should show a little less restraint: the state must offer its citizens reliable guidance to enable them to make self-determined decisions about their lives in the digital 21st century.”

Further information and all results for the categories Money, Health, Safety and Digitalisation, can be accessed at (German version).

ERGO Risiko-Report

Complete report with graphics

ERGO Risk Report 2019 (PDF file, German version)

For further information, please contact:

Katharina Manderfeld

Media Relations

Tel +49 211 477-2324

About the ERGO Group AG

ERGO is one of the major insurance groups in Germany and Europe. Worldwide, the Group is represented in about 30 countries and concentrates on Europe and Asia. German, international, direct and digital business as well as all IT activities and technology services are bundled in four separate units (ERGO Deutschland, ERGO International, ERGO Digital Ventures and ERGO Technology & Services Management) under the umbrella of ERGO Group AG. About 40,000 people work for the Group, either as salaried employees or as registered sales representatives. In 2018, ERGO recorded a total premium income of 19 billion euros and rendered benefits to customers of 15 billion euros (net). ERGO is part of Munich Re, one of the leading reinsurers and risk carriers worldwide.
More at

About the ERGO Risk Report

This representative survey on risk literacy and personal responsibility among Germans was conducted under the scientific direction of Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. The Risk Report 2019 is the second in the series and the full report will be published in September. Between 22 March and 9 April 2019 the independent market research and consultancy institute HEUTE UND MORGEN GmbH interviewed 3,200 people aged 18 and above.
More at (German version)


This media information contains forward-looking statements that are based on current assumptions and forecasts of the management of ERGO Group. Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the forward-looking statements given here and the actual development, in particular the results, financial situation and performance of our Company. The Company assumes no liability to update these forwardlooking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.

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