Convergence: Living conditions

10 December 2018

Convergence in living conditions is essential for a cohesive EU with balanced living standards. The investigation of convergence in this area is relatively new. A recent paper published by the European Commission reflects on the future of the social dimension of the EU and emphasises the role the EU plays. While it acknowledges that the social dimension does not mean the same to all stakeholders, the paper recognises its importance.

Eurofound’s research does not rely on indicators from official statistics alone, as the objective is to measure convergence rather than progress in living conditions and quality of life as such, and to cover other broad dimensions.

Main findings

Overall, most indicators showed clear convergence: life satisfaction, life expectancy, material deprivation index, AROPE (People at risk of poverty or social exclusion), trust in government, quality of government, informal care and social exclusion). There are three indicators where upward convergence was recorded: life expectancy, AROPE and social exclusion. More often, though, convergence had a downward trend, for example, trust in government and material deprivation, or the EU average remained stable, as in life satisfaction and quality of government.

Dimensions and indicators

Overall life experience

The first dimension analysed is an individual’s overall experience of life, following its inclusion by Eurostat’s task force on quality of life and by Stiglitz et al (2009). It is measured using two indicators. The first is life satisfaction, which captures the overall experience of life more completely than other indicators such as happiness (Eurofound, 2012a). The indicator is based on average country scores in response to the question from the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS): ‘All things considered, how satisfied would you say you are with your life these days?’ It is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means very dissatisfied and 10 means very satisfied. The second indicator is life expectancy at birth, a specific measure of health status, drawn from Eurostat data.

Living standards

The main indicator of living standards is Eurostat’s ‘At risk of poverty and social exclusion’ (AROPE) indicator. It is the proportion of people who are either at risk of poverty after social transfers (income poverty), severely materially deprived or living in households with very low levels of work intensity. This indicator is included in the Social Scoreboard.

Quality of society

The third dimension is quality of society, which encompasses two subdimensions. The first relates to governments and institutions. The second concerns more ‘interpersonal’ aspects of the quality of society.

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