Quality of society

11 February 2020

The quality of society has a major impact on well-being and quality of life. In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, trust among Europeans in society and its institutions declined, causing concerns about economic and social insecurity, perceived inequalities, societal tensions and lack of fairness. With the economic recovery, trust in institutions has also recovered. However, improving the social fabric and citizen engagement remain significant for both individual quality of life and resilience of society as a whole.

Recent policy measures at EU level have addressed the participation of older people and encouraged active ageing. Dealing with the high level of young people not in employment, education, or training (NEETs), youth disengagement and its effects have also been on the agenda. Promoting participation in society has also been shown to play a role in combating social exclusion. EU policies acknowledge the importance of citizen engagement for both the quality of society in Member States and the European project itself.

The Commission’s Social Investment Package calls on Member States to prioritise social investment and to focus on growth and social cohesion in the form of active inclusion strategies and more effective use of social budgets to allow people to participate in society. Through the European Semester process, the Commission will closely monitor the social protection systems of Member States and offer country-specific recommendations where necessary.

The European Pillar of Social Rights, endorsed in November 2017, also emphasises the importance of equal opportunities for all to access the labour market and fully participate in society. 

Eurofound’s work

The lives of individuals are intertwined with others, and thus relationships with people in a person’s household, local community and beyond, as well as with institutions and services, play a fundamental role in their quality of life. One reason for the emphasis on the quality of society in Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) is the significance of the social and institutional environment – mapping access to collective as well as individual resources.

To examine the quality of society, the EQLS provides information on perceived social exclusion, sense of belonging, trust in people and institutions, satisfaction with democracy and economy, societal tensions between different groups, economic and social insecurity, as well as lack of personal safety. The survey also contains indicators on social cohesion – participation in social activities, voluntary work and civic and political involvement. 

The EQLS 2016, the fourth survey to date, has expanded on the examination of citizens’ perceptions of the quality of society, and in particular the quality, access and fairness of public services. 

Data and resources


Ongoing work

  • Exploring wealth and transmission of (dis-) advantage in the context of social mobility, with the possibility to inform policymakers about equality of opportunity and fairness in society 
  • Report to examine fairness and optimism for the future and their relationship to people’s perceptions and realities (objective indicators of social and economic situation and living standards)

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