While the labor market remains tight, the percentage of employees who report that their employer offers benefits has been declining, according to the results of an annual survey that looks at employee satisfaction with their workplace benefits conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald & Associates.

The survey of 1,025 U.S. workers aged 21-62 was conducted on June 21-27, 2018. When the respondents were asked what benefits their employer provides, health insurance was the most frequently cited (78%), followed by dental insurance (68%), and retirement savings plans (67%). Researchers pointed out, however, that fewer employees were receiving benefits from their employer in 2018 than in 2017, and that declines in the shares of workers reporting that their employer provides certain types of benefits were observed for eight out of the 10 most popular benefit offerings between 2017 and 2018.

The results also showed that just 12% of the employees surveyed reported accessing voluntary benefits, and that of these respondents, 61% said they do so because it is less expensive to purchase the benefit through their employer than on their own.

At the same time, however, the survey found that employees are generally satisfied with their current benefits package, with 51% of respondents reporting that they are very or extremely satisfied with their benefits, another 30% saying they are somewhat satisfied, and only 9% saying they are not at all satisfied.

When asked about their financial worries, the workers surveyed reported feeling more stressed by the prospect of not saving enough for retirement than about any other financial concern that might be addressed through employee benefits. Broken down by generation, the survey found that baby boomers were more likely than millennials to report that saving enough for retirement is causing them financial stress, while millennials were more likely than baby boomers to say that paying monthly bills and student loan repayment is causing them financial stress.

In addition, just 37% of the surveyed employees said that their employer or benefits company provides no education or advice on benefits. However, depending on the benefit, between 64% and 76% of respondents reported that they find it either somewhat or very easy to find information on what is included, and 64% said they are extremely or very confident in their ability to make benefits decisions.

The survey results emphasized that health care is a critical issue for employees, with 73% of respondents reporting that health insurance is one of the top three most important benefits they take into account when considering whether to stay in or choose a new job. By contrast, only 57% of respondents indicated that a retirement savings plan is among the three benefits they value the most.

When asked about their confidence in specific aspects of the health care system now and in the future, just 34% of respondents said they are confident that they are able to afford health care without financial hardship today, and only 30% indicated that they are confident they will be able to afford health care over the next 10 years. Nonetheless, one-half of respondents with health insurance coverage said they are extremely or very satisfied with their current health plan, and 65% reported that they are generally confident that their employer or union will continue to offer health insurance in the future.

The results suggested that employees’ dissatisfaction with health insurance is mainly related to cost: just 22% of respondents said they are extremely or very satisfied with the cost of their health insurance plan, and only 21% indicated they are satisfied with the costs of health care services not covered by insurance. In addition, 47% of the workers surveyed reported having experienced an increase in health care costs in the past year; and of these respondents, substantial shares said they had decreased their contributions to retirement plans (24%) or to other savings (41%).

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