EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Press release, 19 November 2008

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Eurofound publishes first findings of its second European Quality of Life Survey

Perception of life satisfaction and quality of life remains high among Europeans

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) Europeans are generally satisfied with their quality of life, but levels vary considerably across countries, according to the second European Quality of Life Survey (2EQLS). The survey, carried out by Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU Agency, offers a unique and timely insight into quality of life in Europe, and provides policymakers and other interested groups with information on how individuals assess their quality of life.

On average, Europeans rate their life satisfaction with a 7, and 7.5 for happiness, on a scale from one to ten. There are, however, big variations between both levels of life satisfaction and happiness, especially among the 12 new EU Member States. Not surprisingly, the survey found that people with higher incomes, good health, secure jobs and higher levels of education are more satisfied, happy and fulfilled. People living with a partner and children also report higher levels of life satisfaction.

‘The differences in terms of life satisfaction and attitudes towards the future underline the significant inequalities in living conditions and in the experience of daily life for Europeans,’ says Jorma Karppinen, Eurofound’s Director. ‘In particular, well-being in the former socialist countries varies greatly between social and demographic groups. There are marked disadvantages associated with low income, and older people are more likely to report dissatisfaction with their situation.’

‘Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) represents a unique attempt to explore quality of life in a wide range of countries,’ says Vladimír Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, commenting on the survey and its findings. ‘It is a major source of information, highlighting the social and economic policy challenges facing the EU following the two recent rounds of enlargement.’ Income and standard of living are key elements of quality of life.

Standards of living and reported well-being of Europeans are closely related to the economy of the country in which they live. The survey found that the proportion of people who suffer multiple deprivations, i.e. those who could not afford five or six of the basic necessities, is five times higher in the 12 new EU Member States than in the former EU15 countries. For the group of three candidate countries the deprivation is even up to ten times higher than that for EU15.

Health is a cornerstone to Europeans; four out of five Europeans (81%) said that good health was ‘very important’ for their quality of life. Altogether, only 21% of people rate their health as ‘very good’, while 46% rate it as ‘good’. Also, more people in the 12 new EU Member States and the three candidate countries rate their health as ‘bad or very bad’; this applies in particular to women in these countries. Reporting poor health is, not surprisingly, associated with increasing age: in the EU27, fewer than 2% of people aged between 18 and 34 years report bad health, as against 18% of those aged 65 and over.

Access to, and quality of, health care services are important factors for social protection. A substantial number of Europeans, however, report difficulty in accessing health care services. For instance, in the EU27, more than 25% of people report problems because they are too far from their doctor or hospital, more than 38% experience delays in getting medical appointments and more than 27% have difficulty with the expense involved in seeing a doctor.

Health and quality of family relationships are usually ranked the most important aspect of quality of life for Europeans. Family remains for most people the first port of call for support in emergencies, as well as for child and elder care. It is clear, however, that men and women are involved differently in the family. Responsibilities in the household, for example, are not shared equally. Women are more likely to report involvement in caring activities on a daily basis, also spending much more time on domestic duties. In the EU27, women report spending 33 hours per week, and men over 18 hours, in caring for and educating children, while women spend 18 hours per week cooking and doing housework, as against 10 hours per week for men.

Enabling citizens to develop some balance between family life, personal commitments and working life has become central to the social policy debate. Still, almost half (48%) of citizens in paid employment in the EU27 say that at least several times a month they are too tired as a result of their work to do household jobs, while nearly one in four (22%) say they are too tired several times a week. Similar but smaller proportions of workers say that they have difficulties in fulfilling their family responsibilities because of the amount of time they spend in work: almost one in three (29%) indicate that this happens at least several times a month, and for 11% this is the case several times a week.

The EQLS also looks at assessment of the quality of the environment and society; for example, it presents measures trust in other people and institutions. When asked to rate their level of trust in other people on a scale from one to 10, people in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands express the highest levels of trust, giving a rating of between 6.5 and 7.2. People living in Cyprus express the lowest levels of trust, at only 2.6, followed by Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) Macedonia 3.8.

Eurofound’s survey on quality of life in Europe is based on more than 35,000 face-to-face interviews with people aged 18 years or older. The field work was carried out during September 2007 – February 2008 in 31 countries: the 27 EU Member States and the three EU candidate countries – Croatia, FYR Macedonia, and Turkey – as well as Norway. For 24 countries, the sample size was around 1,000. For France, Italy, Poland and the UK the sample size was approximately 1,500. In Germany and Turkey it was 2,000. The full descriptive report will be published in March 2009, followed by a series of secondary analyses reports.

The resumé of the 2nd European Quality of Life Survey is available at www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef0852.htm

Additional press material, including a background note, access to the survey data using Eurofound’s new Survey Mapping Tool (SMT), is available at http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/qualityoflife/eqls/2007/.

See also: electronic press kit.

For further information, contact

  • Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, on email: mma@eurofound.europa.eu, or telephone: +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507.
  • Teresa Renehan, Information Liaison Officer, on email: ter@eurofound.europa.eu, or telephone: +353-1-204 2125.

NOTE TO THE EDITOR
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound, www.eurofound.europa.eu) is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policy making with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. The Foundation was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975. Eurofound is located in Dublin, Ireland.

You can register for regular news and information from Eurofound at: www.eurofound.europa.eu

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