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Public services

Public services such as healthcare, social care, education and transport are essential for achieving high levels of social protection, social cohesion and social inclusion. But it is the quality of and access to services that determines their success across a changing social and demographic landscape.

The challenge for policymakers is to ensure the design and delivery of health and social services that meet the varied needs of citizens. That challenge has been compounded by severe financial constraints and by increasing demand, driven in part by demographic ageing and, in some part, by the influx of refugees to Europe. In addition to affordability and quality, newer issues are also emerging. These include the opportunities of digitalisation, along with the risk that new digital channels for service delivery may isolate already disadvantaged communities and the potential threat of increasing diversity of service providers on access to and quality of public services.

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Recent updates

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In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Daniel Molinuevo about the European Child Guarantee, how bad the situation is with regard to child poverty...
Podcast
Group of children eating healthy food in day care centre © Oksana Kuzmina/Adobe Stock

The European Child Guarantee outlines recommendations for Member States to support access to healthy nutrition and at least one healthy meal each school day.

Web page
Happy dad, excited kid play in cardboard boxes in new house © Davids C/peopleimages.com/Adobe Stock

The European Child Guarantee outlines recommendations for Member States to support effective access to adequate housing for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Web page

Eurofound research

Eurofound examines the needs of citizens generally, with a special focus on young people, older people and those with physical or mental health problems. It monitors and analyses changes in public services brought about by budgetary constraints, changes in policies and advances in technology and digitalisation. Eurofound’s research into public services also examines the perspectives of service providers and their response to changing user needs.

Assessing the quality of public services

Research examines how Europeans perceive the quality of society and their public services. Eurofound draws on the analysis of its Network of Eurofound Correspondents and the regularly repeated European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) to assess the quality of public services and access to those services, such as education, childcare and long-term care. Other studies address a number of key themes, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens and access to services, including on young and older people, as well as the social realities of the green transition and maintaining access to quality services. This research also touches on the benefits of digitalisation in healthcare services. 

Social inclusion: Protecting young people and children

Measures to support the social inclusion of young people and experience of the implementation of the reinforced Youth Guarantee have been important topics for Eurofound. In addition, access to early childhood education and care services and the quality of such services have been gaining greater prominence in the EU policy debate around the European Child Guarantee and have also been the focus of Eurofound research.

Focus on various public services

Other areas of interest for Eurofound include housing unaffordability and inadequacy, as well as household over-indebtedness and debt advisory services. Research has also explored access to energy, public transport and digital communications for people on low incomes. 

Future research will focus on mental health services and services facilitating independent living. Furthermore, the impact of the inflow of mobile citizens on the public services of EU Member States will be an important consideration.

Key outputs

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The European Child Guarantee was established in 2021 to ensure that children in need have access to a set of key services. This policy brief analyses trends and disparities in...

21 September 2023
Publication
Policy brief
Front cover for Eurofound's publication entitled 'Social services in Europe: Adapting to a new reality'

This report addresses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on social services in the EU. While the pandemic negatively affected social services, it nevertheless provided lessons on how to adapt...

16 August 2023
Publication
Research report

EU context

The European Commission’s Social Investment Package, launched in 2013, urged Member States to put greater emphasis on high-quality public services. It highlighted the importance of improving access to early childhood education and care, as well as quality healthcare as a key element in improving overall health and maintaining the productivity of the workforce. In May 2019, the Council of the EU adopted the Recommendation on high-quality early childhood education and care systems to support Member States in improving access to and quality of the services they provide. Following this, the European Child Guarantee was adopted in June 2021 and aims to ensure that all children have access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education. 

Furthermore, the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy for Europe, adopted in 2015, puts an emphasis on modernising public services as a way to boost competitiveness. Embracing new technologies, online public services and cross-border interoperability are critical to increasing cost-efficiencies and quality of services. The EU Digital Decade, announced in 2021, sets out a vision for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030. It outlines four key areas, one of which is digitalisation of public services. 

Eurofound’s work on public services links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on promoting our European way of life. 

Eurofound expert(s)

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Hans Dubois is a senior research manager in the Social Policies unit at Eurofound. His research topics include housing, over-indebtedness, healthcare, long-term care, social...

Senior research manager,
Social policies research unit
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Daniel Molinuevo is a research manager in the Social Policies unit, having joined Eurofound in 2010. His research on health and social care has focused on the quality and...

Research manager,
Social policies research unit
Publications results (103)

The urban-rural divide in EU countries has grown in recent years, and the depopulation of certain rural areas in favour of cities is a challenge when it comes to promoting economic development and maintaining social cohesion and convergence.

18 October 2023

The European Child Guarantee was established in 2021 to ensure that children in need have access to a set of key services. This policy brief analyses trends and disparities in children’s access to early childhood education and care, education, healthcare, nutrition and housing.

21 September 2023

This report addresses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on social services in the EU. While the pandemic negatively affected social services, it nevertheless provided lessons on how to adapt them in response to new challenges and social risks. One lesson, for instance, is that policies should be dev

16 August 2023

In collecting information on essential services, the European Commission requested Eurofound to provide input on certain aspects of existing and planned measures in the Member States to improve access to essential services in reference to Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. For

07 September 2022

A new European Disability Strategy was launched in 2021 with the aim of intensifying progress on ensuring the full participation of people with disabilities in society. The increase of EU policy focus on people with disabilities is timely: the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the challenges they faced in

21 March 2022

This report captures the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the quality of life of older citizens, including the impact on their well-being, finances, employment and social inclusion. It explores the effects on the use of care services and older people’s reliance on other support. The report presents

28 January 2022

The impact of COVID-19 has moved public health up the EU social policy agenda. As the EU directs its efforts towards establishing a European Health Union to guard against future health crises, this policy brief examines the extent to which the EU achieved upward convergence in terms of health and

30 September 2021

This report examines policy developments in EU Member States aimed at supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the open labour market, with a particular focus on the three stages of entering into employment, staying in the job and returning to work after an absence. It explores the

19 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the accessibility of health, education and care services for all Europeans. This is also the case for children, who in several countries have seen their schools closed and replaced with remote learning. They have been affected, too, by the pandemic

28 January 2021

The long-term care (LTC) sector employs a growing share of workers in the EU and is experiencing increasing staff shortages. The LTC workforce is mainly female and a relatively large and increasing proportion is aged 50 years or older. Migrants are often concentrated in certain LTC jobs. This report

14 December 2020

Online resources results (54)
In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Daniel Molinuevo about the European Child Guarantee, how bad the situation is with regard to child poverty and social exclusion in Europe, what Member States have committed to doing about it, what the implicatio
1 May 2024

Finland: Major reform to healthcare and social services underway

The Finnish government is preparing a major reform to health, social services and regional government which will make regional governments a new level of public administration. Healthcare and social services and public employment services will be transferred from local governments to regional

Sweden: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

Continued conflict at the Port of Gothenburg and an increase in sick leave due to mental ill-health in the workplace are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Sweden in the second quarter of 2017.

Latvia: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

Restrictions on extended working hours and tax reforms in the healthcare sector, strike action by family doctors, and social partner discussions on the national minimum wage are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in

Austria: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

A new minimum wage of €1,500, the breakdown of negotiations on working time flexibility, a record low of occupational accidents and difficult working conditions in the health sector are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working

Spain: Agreement to reduce temporary employment in public administration

Approximately 250,000 temporary employment positions in Spain’s public administration will become permanent in the next three years, after an agreement on the issue was reached by the Spanish Ministry of Finance and Public Function and the major Spanish unions representing public employees. The

Estonia: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

Sectoral collective bargaining in the healthcare sector, changes to the dispute resolution mechanism and equal treatment for men and women in the workplace are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Estonia in the first

Sweden: Government scraps contested labour market reforms

Sweden’s coalition government has reversed changes to the welfare system made by the previous centre-right government. It has removed a cut-off point of 2.5 years for claiming sickness benefit and scrapped a scheme for mandatory workplace activities for the unemployed. The decision to reverse rather


Blogs results (7)

Child poverty and exclusion in the EU is on the rise. To address this worrying trend, EU policy needs to focus on access to services, which requires improving data collection, targeting inequalities and involving the workforce that delivers services in policymaking.

24 October 2023
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The European Pillar of Social Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to affordable long-term care services of good quality, in particular home-care and community-based services’. Taking a step to make this principle a reality, the European Commission is currently preparing a European Care

5 May 2022
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Healthcare providers have been overwhelmed by the demand for COVID-19-related care. Medical appointments and treatments for other conditions have often been delayed, potentially leading to escalating health problems and greater future care needs among those who have missed out. If the pandemic leads

18 January 2021
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An ageing Europe and rising public expenditure on long-term care have signalled for some time that the fundamentals of care provision need to be addressed. However, the shocking death toll in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many long-term care services were ill-equipped to

2 December 2020
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Depopulation of rural areas and the concentration of employment and education opportunities in urban centres is a fact of modern life. What impact does this have on the quality of life of rural residents? Do they feel increasingly isolated, and what are the emerging trends? New research by Eurofound

8 May 2019
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Austerity measures introduced during the crisis have disproportionately concerned cuts in the measures that are most vital for reducing child poverty: cash and tax benefits, a new Eurofound report shows. Furthermore, there has been a move away from universal coverage towards more targeted support

3 February 2016
Upcoming publications results (1)

Social protection can include a range of entitlements to monetary and in-kind benefits. Eurofound’s project focuses on unemployment and minimum income benefits. Social protection can provide a safety net for people who are negatively impacted by the green and digital transitions. During the COVID-19

September 2024
Data results (2)
7 November 2023
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24 October 2023
Reference period:

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