Eurofound: The first 40 years

Eurofound: The first 40 years
Scroll Down

Founding Regulation

The problems presented by the improvement of living and working conditions in modern society are increasingly numerous and complex [and it is] important that appropriate Community action should be built up on an inter-disciplinary scientific basis and at the same time that employers and workers should be associated in the action undertaken.”

European Heads of State or Government of the nine Member States of the enlarged European Community meet for the first time at the Paris European Summit, 19–21 October 1972

Eurofound at 40

Hard to believe, perhaps, but the words cited opposite are those inscribed in the founding Regulation establishing the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions back in 1975. Words that could just as easily be used today to describe both the context facing the European Union and the role of the Agency 40 years on.

They are testament, surely, to the sincere and consistent commitment of the then European Community, and its successors, to the social dimension – and a fundamental element in contributing to the last half century of Europe’s undisputed economic and social progress. Manifested early on in the first social action programme in 1973, this unrelenting commitment to defining a social face to this new community of countries continued with the establishment of what later became ‘Eurofound’ in Dublin shortly afterwards. A tripartite European Agency to provide data and analysis to help shape policy in social and work-related matters was a bold and defining element in this move towards locking the social dimension into the development and growth of the ever-expanding Union.

Logotype Eurofound at 40 (1975-2015)

Throughout these years, Eurofound has continued to contribute to this early and strategic vision of a social Europe. By the late 1970s, work on wage systems was already a core part of the Agency’s activities. Other early activities focused on new forms of work organisation, shiftwork and physical and psychological constraints at work. In the 1980s, unsurprisingly, the focus was on the long-term unemployed and in 1990 work on the first pan-European survey of working conditions was under way.

As the Union has grown, so too has the scope of the Agency’s work, taking on responsibility for monitoring and analysing employment change via the European Monitoring Centre on Change, and today its scope encompasses 28 Member States and several candidate countries and observer states. The sixth series of the working conditions survey covering 34 countries is now in preparation, while surveys on quality of life and on company practices have similarly evolved over time. Comparative analysis across countries continues to be Eurofound’s key contribution in many areas, drawing also on input from the network of European correspondents. Meanwhile, original research has made significant input to several central policy debates. Most recently, it was Eurofound’s calculation of the estimated cost to Europe’s economy of the exclusion of the 14 million young people not in employment, education or training (about 1.2% of GDP per annum) that galvanised action for the Youth Guarantee now being implemented across Europe.

Clearly, over the past 40 years much has changed: life expectancy in the early member countries of the European Community in the 1970s has typically increased by between six and eight years; the employment rate of women has risen to about 63% compared with a rate of just 27% in 1975 in countries such as Ireland; fertility rates have declined in most countries. Such changes have resulted in topics such as job quality, active ageing and long-term care emerging as key policy concerns today, requiring research and analysis of the highest order. In parallel, from a base of little knowledge and awareness, demand for reliable information on quality of life and work across Europe has grown dramatically over four decades, a gap filled – in part, at least – by Eurofound’s pan-European surveys. These provide insight into trends in working and living conditions – monitoring levels of trust in public institutions, access to public services, well-being at work and so much more.

At all times during these developments, the Agency has sought to act and react where it is most pertinent to the social policy agenda and priorities at EU level. As the EU faces another new and challenging chapter and as Eurofound marks 40 years of contribution, the Agency’s role has never been more relevant – continuing to strive to deliver timely, topical and accessible information and analysis to help policymakers shape a better future for us all.


Key areas of work

The aim of the Foundation shall be to contribute to the planning and establishment of better living and working conditions through action designed to increase and disseminate knowledge likely to assist this development. With this aim in view, the tasks of the Foundation shall be to develop and to pursue ideas on the medium and long term improvement of living and working conditions in the light of practical experience and to identify factors leading to change.”
Regulation (EEC) No 1365/75 of the Council of 26 May 1975 on the creation of a European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions


  • European Monitoring Centre on Change
  • European Restructuring Monitor
  • Young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs)
  • Mapping youth transitions
  • Temporary agency work
  • Born global: Job creation in new international businesses
  • Labour mobility in the EU
  • New forms of employment
  • Jobs in small and micro firms
  • Restructuring in SMEs
  • Flexicurity
  • Greening of industries in the EU
  • Undeclared work
  • Employment options of the future
  • ICT outsourcing
  • Pacts for employment and competitiveness


  • Teleworking
  • Technology and work organisation
  • Well-being at work
  • Working poor
  • Flexibility and working conditions
  • Work-life balance
  • Work organisation and innovation
  • Shiftwork
  • Part-time work
  • New forms of work organisation
  • Psychosocial risk
  • Violence and harassment at work
  • Sustainable work
  • Preventing racism in the workplace
  • Work-related stress
  • Working conditions and gender


  • Gender equality
  • Equal opportunities and collective bargaining
  • Pay developments
  • European works councils
  • Collective wage bargaining
  • Employee financial participation
  • Impact of the crisis on industrial relations
  • Information and consultation
  • Working time developments
  • Equal opportunities and collective bargaining
  • European sectoral social dialogue
  • Impact of Economic and Monetary Union
  • Representativeness of social partner organisations
  • Social dialogue and conflict resolution
  • Corporate social respondibility
  • Posted workers


  • Active citizenship
  • Network of Cities for Local Integration
  • Social cohesion
  • The environment
  • Combating age barriers
  • Active inclusion of young people with disabilities
  • Active welfare and employment policies
  • European Quality of Life Survey
  • Employment in household services
  • Integration of migrants
  • Ethnic enterpreneurship
  • Organisation of time over the life course
  • Sustainable development
  • Volunteering
  • Quality in social public services
  • Income from work after retirement
  • Innovative and sustainable cities
  • Parenting support
  • Household debt

EU Treaties and enlargement of the EU

Milestones in European social policy 1975–2015


  • 1951 Belgium French Germany Italy Luxembourg Netherlands Six founding Member States: Belgium, France, Federal
    Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands
    Population EC6 (1958): 169.1 million
  • 1951 Treaty of Paris: creation of European Coal and Steel Community
  • 1957 Treaties of Rome: European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community
  • 1957 Treaties of Rome (Free movement of labour,equal pay)
    Creation of the European Social Fund


  • 1965 Merger Treaty


  • 1973 Denmark Holland United Kingdom Accession of Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom
    Population EC9: 256.7 million
  • 1974 First social action programme
  • 1975 Regulation establishing Eurofound
    Regulation establishing the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop)
    Directives on collective redundancies and equal pay
  • 1976 Directive on equal treatment for men and women in employment
  • 1978 Action programme for safety and health at work


  • 1981 Greece Accession of Greece
    Population EC10: 271.4 million
  • 1986 Portugal Spain Accession of Portugal and Spain
    Population EC12: 366.8 million
  • 1985 Schengen Treaty
  • 1986 Single European Act
  • 1980Anti-poverty programme
  • 1985Launch of social dialogue
    (Val Duchesse initiative)
  • 1986Single European Act
  • 1989 Charter of fundamental social rights of workers
    Framework Directive on safety and health at work


  • 1995 Austria finland sweden Accession of Austria, Finland, Sweden
    Population EU15: 372.9 million
  • 1992 Maastricht Treaty
  • 1997 Amsterdam Treaty
  • 1990Regulation establishing the European Environment Agency (EEA)
  • 1992Council Recommendation on minimum income
  • 1993Single Market
    Directive on working time
    White paper on growth, competitiveness and employment
  • 1994White Paper on European social policy
    Directive on European works councils
    Regulation establishing the European Agency for safety and health at work (EU-OSHA)
  • 1996Directive on posting of workers
    Framework Agreement on parental leave
  • 1997Directive on part-time work
    European employment strategy
  • 1999Framework Agreement on fixed-term work


  • 2004 Cyprus Czech Republic Estonia Hungary Latvia Lithuania Malta Poland Slovakia Slovenia Accession of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia
    Population EU25: 456.5 million
  • 2007 Bulgaria Romania Accession of Bulgaria and Romania
    Population EU27: 494.2 million
  • 2001Nice Treaty
  • 2007Lisbon Treaty
  • 2000Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs
    Open method of coordination
    Social exclusion strategy
    EU Charter of fundamental rights
    Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation
  • 2001Strategy for sustainable development
    Fifth Community action programme on equal opportunities (2001–2006)
    European Company Statute
  • 2002Changeover to the euro in 12 EU Member States
  • 2002 - 2006Action programme to combat social exclusion
  • 2003Statute for a European cooperative society
  • 2005Commission Communication on restructuring
    Green Paper on demographic change
  • 2006i2010: European Information Society for growth and employment
    Services Directive
  • 2007EU Programme for employment and social solidarity (Progress) (2007-2013) European Regional Development Fund (2007–2013)
    European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)
    Community strategy on health and safety at work (2007–2012)
    European Social Fund (2007-2013)
    Global financial crisis
  • 2008Green paper on the European workforce for health
    Directive on equal treatment of temporary workers
  • 2009Recast of European works councils Directive


  • 2013 Croatia Accession of Croatia
    Population EU28: 507.4 million (1 Jan 2014)
  • 2010Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth Directive on parental leave
    European platform against poverty and social exclusion
    European disability strategy (2010–2020)
    Framework Agreement on inclusive labour markets
    Framework Agreement on parental leave (revised)
  • 2011European Semester
  • 2013Youth Guarantee
  • 2014EU Programme for employment and social innovation (EaSI) (2014-2020)

Work milestones


  • Shiftwork | 1977 – 1985
  • Physical and psychological constraints at work | 1977 – 1980
  • New forms of work organisation | 1978 – 1982
  • Wage systems | 1979 – 1981


  • Worker participation | 1980 – 1983
  • Work-related stress | 1981 – 1995
  • Working time and leisure time | 1981 – 1985
  • Commuting between home and work | 1981 – 1985
  • Impact of retirement | 1982 – 1985
  • Teleworking | 1982 – 1985
  • Working with VDUs | 1982 – 1985
  • Legal and contractual limitations of working time | 1985 – 1989
  • Social impact of biotechnology | 1985 – 1989
  • Counselling for the long-term unemployed (Eurocounsel) | 1985 – 1997
  • European Health and Safety database (HASTE) | 1989 – 1993
  • Ageing at work | 1989 – 1995


  • European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) | 1990 – present
  • European Employment and Industrial Relations glossaries (EMIRE) | 1991 – 1998
  • Living and working in the information society | 1992 – 2000
  • Active citizenship | 1993 – 1997
  • Employee direct participation in organisational change (EPOC) | 1993 – 1998
  • Information transfer seminars for central and eastern European countries | 1993 – 1998
  • Local partnership and social cohesion | 1994 – 1997
  • Prevention of racism at the workplace | 1994 – 1998
  • Information and consultation in European multinational companies | 1994 – 1999
  • Monitoring of working time develpments | 1994 – 2000
  • Innovative forms of work organisation | 1994 – 2000
  • Equal opportunities and collective bargaining | 1995 – 1998
  • Employment Options of the Future | 1996 – 2000
  • European Industrial Relations Observatory | 1997 – 2014
  • Social public services | 1997 – 2000
  • Education and training for sustainable development | 1997 – 2000
  • Pacts for employment and development | 1997 – 2002
  • SMEs and job creation | 1998 – 2000
  • Promoting gender equality at the workplace | 1998 – 2002
  • Social implications of EMU | 1999 – 2002
  • Employee financial participation | 1999 – 2003


  • European Monitoring Centre on Change | 2000 – present
  • Temporary agency work | 2000 – 2003
  • European Restructuring Monitor | 2002 – present
  • Preventing violence and harassment | 2002 – 2004
  • European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) | 2003 – present
  • European Company Survey (ECS) | 2004 – present
  • Survey on working time and work-life balance | 2004 – 2007
  • European industrial relations dictionary | 2005 – present
  • Attractive workplaces | 2005 – 2008
  • Cities for Local Integration Policies for Migrants (CLIP) | 2006 – 2012
  • Undeclared work in the EU | 2007 –2009
  • Representativeness studies in selected sectors | 2007 – present
  • European Jobs Monitor | 2009 – present
  • Managing household debts | 2009 – 2012
  • Tackling the recession: Employment-related public initiatives | 2009 – 2012
  • Active inclusion of young people with disabilities or health problems | 2009 – 2012
  • Participation in volunteering | 2009 – 2011
  • Part-time work in Europe | 2009 – 2011


  • Income from work after retirement | 2010 – 2012
  • Active inclusion of young people with disabilities or health problems | 2010 – 2013
  • Social dialogue in times of global economic crisis | 2010 – 2012
  • Work organisation and innovation | 2010 – 2013
  • Young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) | 2011 – 2013
  • Restructuring in SMEs in Europe | 2011 – 2013
  • Sustainable work and the ageing workforce | 2011 – 2012
  • Greening of industries in the EU | 2011 – 2013
  • More and better jobs in home-care services | 2011 – 2013
  • Social partners’ involvement in pension reform | 2011 – 2013
  • Born global: The potential of job creation in new international businesses | 2011 – 2013
  • Labour mobility within the EU | 2012 – 2014
  • Quality of life in enlargement countries | 2012 – 2013
  • New forms of employment relationships | 2013 – 2015
  • Gender employment gap | 2013 – 2015
  • Pay developments into the 21st century | 2013 – 2015
  • European Observatory of Working Life (EurWORK) | 2014 – present


  • Wiebe de Jong
  • Clive Purkiss
  • Raymond-Pierre Bodin
  • Jorma Karppinen
  • Juan Menéndez-Valdés
  • 1976
  • 1979
  • 1985
  • 2000
  • 2003
  • 2005
  • 2009
  • 2010

Deputy Directors

  • Giuseppe Querenghi
  • Bent Pedersen
  • Eric Verborgh
  • Willy Buschak
  • Erika Mezger
Clive Purkiss and Eric Verborgh
Clive Purkiss and Eric Verborgh
Raymond Pierre Bodin
Raymond-Pierre Bodin
Willy Buschak and Jorma Karppinen
Willy Buschak and Jorma Karppinen
Erika Mezger and Juan Menéndez-Valdés
Erika Mezger and Juan Menéndez-Valdés

Highlights every decade

1975 - 1985

  • Postes de travail sur console de visualisation
  • Providing Information about urban services
  • Social change and local actions
  • Stress prevention in the workplace
  • Working and caring
  • Four year rolling programe of the european foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions

1985 - 1995

  • European Health and safety database HASTE
  • Working for health at work
  • Tech enterprise and the enviroment
  • Issues of participation in technological Innovation
  • Part-time work inthe european community lave and regulations

1995 - 2005

  • Comités d´entreprose européens
  • Managing and ageing workforce, a guide to good practice
  • Ageing of work
  • Equal oportunities and collective bargaining in the European Union
  • Communiqué: The Foundation celebrates 25 years
  • Gender and working conditions in the European Union
  • European employment and Industrial relations glosary

2005 - 2015

  • FOCUS: Job creation
  • Eurofound yearbook 2013: Living and working in Europe
  • Eurofound News
  • Addresing the gender pay gap
  • Public instrument to support restructuring in Europe
  • Living to work - Working to live: Tomorrow´s work-life balance in Europe
  • Trends in job quality in Europe

Click in the diferent decade for show up its publications


“Eurofound is a place of exemplary cooperation of governments, social partners and the European Commission in the service of quality research into Europe’s life and work.”
Jerzy Ciechański, Chair, Governing Board of Eurofound (2012–2014)

“Eurofound provides important information on topics relevant for employers throughout the EU, such as job creation, working conditions and industrial relations. The work carried out by Eurofound has been very helpful in informing the debate among policymakers and social partners on crucial labour market issues.”
Markus Beyrer, Director-General BUSINESSEUROPE

“That is why the Foundation’s mission and its capacity to provide a toolkit for the European institutions, the Member States and civil society is crucial. It ensures that the key actors in European social policy are equipped to make more informed decisions about managing the processes of change. That mission could not be more relevant than now.”
Eamon Gilmore TD, Former Irish Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, EU Presidency Chair at the opening of the Foundation Forum, Dublin Castle, February 2013

“Eurofound has provided substantial support to EU and national policymakers over the last 40 years to improve living and working conditions in the European Union. The high-quality analysis and data provided by Eurofound has been crucial in addressing the consequences of the current economic and social crisis and in finding ways to put the European Union back on the path to recovery.”
László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion 2010–2014

“Eurofound provides timely, up-to-date and quality information on highly relevant topics, such as European labour market developments, industrial relations, working conditions and quality of life. Over the years, Eurofound has done a remarkable job in collecting and disseminating harmonised information to support evidence-based policymaking at Member State and EU level.”
Catherine Day, Secretary-General, European Commission

“Over four decades, Eurofound has been an invaluable resource for everyone concerned with European industrial relations. Its work, ranging from detailed comparative thematic analyses to information on key developments in individual countries, provides essential material for scholars and practitioners alike.”
Richard Hyman, Emeritus Professor of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics

“ The European Parliament... welcomes Eurofound’s reaction to the changed policy priorities induced by the economic crisis, by launching new projects linked to priority themes on the social impact of the crisis, recovery and job creation, demographic change, and sustainable public sector.”
Pervenche Berès MEP, Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs 2009–2014

“ Through its work and activities over the past four decades, Eurofound has been an important partner in the campaign to raise awareness of poverty, social exclusion and inequality in Europe.”
Barbara Helfferich, Director, European Anti-Poverty Network

“ Eurofound provides invaluable information on the realities of working life, industrial relations and living conditions in the European Union. We believe that the tripartite governance of Eurofound ensures a focus on research relevant to both social partners and policymakers.”
Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation

“ Eurofound’s timely reporting of industrial relations developments in individual countries and their comparative analysis makes it a key partner of the ILO; we are looking forward to further cooperation in the areas of social dialogue and working conditions for the benefit of our respective constituents.”
Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization

“ Through its research and its development of ideas emerging from that research, Eurofound is making a growing and invaluable contribution to the living and working environment in the European Community.”
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990–1997) and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997–2002), at the official opening of Eurofound’s new building in Dublin, 1992

“ Eurofound has proved itself a reliable source of information on European labour markets, with brief and to-the-point reports and conferences, and should be a constant reference to anyone interested in the European project.”
Sir Christopher Pissarides, Professor of Economics and Political Science, (London School of Economics), Nobel Prize laureate in Economic Sciences 2010

Read more testimonies

facts from Eurofound

  • European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) – information source on past and current company restructurings
  • 17% – the difference in earnings between men and women in Europe, known as the gender pay gap (Social partners and gender equality)
  • European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) – news and analysis on industrial relations developments 1997–2014
  • 1 in 3 – the number of Europeans who carried out some type of unpaid voluntary work in 2012 (Third European Quality of Life Survey 2012)
  • Foundation Forum – Since 2002, Eurofound has brought together high-level experts to debate priority issues in social policy
  • 1 in 4 – the number of workers in Europe reporting that work affects their health negatively (Fifth European Working Conditions Survey 2010)
  • Foundation Seminar Series – Eurofound’s biannual exchange with tripartite national teams of experts on European and national employment and social issues
  • 73% – the proportion of European companies that practises some form of teamwork (Third European Company Survey 2013)
  • NEETs – ground-breaking research into young people ‘not in employment, education or training’, which contributed to the adoption of the Youth Guarantee in 2013
  • 60% – the proportion of European establishments where the employee representation is jointly involved with management in the decision-making process on the most important recent change in the firm (Third European Company Survey 2013)
  • European Working Conditions Survey – monitoring the changing world of work for over 20 years
  • 84% – the proportion of the EU workforce who feel the work they do is useful ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’ (Fifth European Working Conditions Survey 2010)
  • European Quality of Life Survey – highlighting the views and concerns of Europeans since 2003
  • High-skilled service activities – these represent 6 of the 10 occupations recording job growth in Europe in the period 2011–2013 (ERM Annual Report 2013)
  • Governing Board – ensures tripartite representation of EU governments, employers and workers in planning and implementation of all Eurofound work
  • 13% – the proportion of employees in European SMEs with a ‘green’ job in 2012 (Greening of industries in the EU: Anticipating and managing the effects on quantity and quality of jobs)
  • European Jobs Monitor – tracking shifts in job structure in European labour markets
  • 17% – the proportion of women who are board members in the largest publicly listed companies in the EU (‘Too few women in leadership positions across the EU’, 2014)
  • European Industrial Relations glossaries – winner of the Jason Farradane prize (Institute of Information Scientists) in 1992
  • 1 in 3 – the share of European companies providing paid time off for training to employees (Third European Company Survey 2013)
  • European Company Survey – 10 years of exploring European companies: what makes a company a winner?
  • From 38% to 45% – the proportion of people in Europe reporting some degree of difficulty making ends meet from 2007 to 2011 (Third European Quality of Life Survey)
  • Ageing workforce – Eurofound’s work includes a database of over 200 cases of good company practice
  • 20% – the share of poor quality jobs across Europe as a whole in 2010 (Fifth European Working Conditions Survey)
  • European Industrial Relations Dictionary – one-stop shop for information on employment and industrial relations at EU level
  • 6.6 million – the number of EU nationals who were working in another EU country in 2012, representing 3.1% of the total working population (Labour migration in the EU: Recent trends and policies)
  • Working time – this topic (shiftwork, part-time work, working time schemes, work–life balance) has been explored by Eurofound since 1975
  • 1.2 million – the rise in the number of people in employment in Europe in the second quarter of 2014 compared to a year previously, a sign of positive growth (ERM Quarterly 3/2014)
  • Work-related stress – the subject of research since 1996, culminating in the 2014 joint report with EU-OSHA on psychosocial risks
  • 40% – the proportion of companies in Europe that say they have difficulties recruiting staff with the right skills (Third European Company Survey 2013)
  • EurWORK – European Observatory of Working Life: integrating Eurofound’s long-established observatories on industrial relations (EIRO) and working conditions (EWCO) in 2014
  • 25% – the share of workers in the EU declaring they experience work-related stress during all or most of their working time (Fifth European Working Conditions Survey)
  • Survey mapping tool – Eurofound’s interactive online tool for data visualisation
  • New forms of employment – Eurofound’s innovative research over two decades into new ways of working and technological developments
  • 16,628 – the number of new jobs in the European retail sector announced in the third quarter of 2014 (European Restructuring Monitor)
  • EMCC – European Monitoring Centre on Change: promoting understanding of changes in the world of work, employment and restructuring since 2001
  • 1.26% – the estimated economic loss (GDP share) in Europe as a result of having 14.6 million young people aged 15–29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) (Mapping youth transitions in Europe)
  • CLIP – Eurofound research that supported the social and economic integration of migrants across a network of 30 cities
  • 7% – the proportion of households in Europe who have difficulties in making ends meet (Third European Quality of Life Survey)
  • BEST Bulletin on shiftwork – pioneering research into working time arrangements and their impact on health and quality of life

Looking ahead

Europe is facing considerable challenges: increasing employment and supporting business to compete in a globalised world while simultaneously striving to improve the working conditions and quality of life for all Europeans. Eurofound provides invaluable input into the policymaking of the EU to achieve these ambitious goals, and I look forward to working with the Agency as we forge a stronger, dynamic and more equal Union.

Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility

The challenges for Europe in a post-crisis world are more acute than ever before. If we want job-rich growth and an inclusive society, relying on previous patterns and old solutions is no longer an option. To make the right choices for the next decades, we need to look at what has been tried, what has worked and what has not. This is where Eurofound can add its real value: providing European policymakers with comparative data and analyses on social and work-related issues and delivering the sound evidence they need to make informed decisions for a better future of all those who live and work in the European Union.

Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Director of Eurofound

Logotype Eurofoud 40 years