Quality of life and public services

30 March 2020

Quality of life is a broad concept covering a number of different dimensions. It encompasses both objective factors such as health, work status and living conditions, as well as the subjective assessments of an individual’s life situation and perception of quality of society. The accessibility and quality of public services are important determinants of quality of life. These services, including health and care services, education and housing, underpin social protection, cohesion and inclusion and are also closely linked to levels of trust in government and institutions. 

In this context, today’s policymakers face critical challenges, including the impact of the financial crisis, an ageing demographic, internal EU mobility and migration. The European platform against poverty and social exclusion is a flagship initiative of the Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy, which set ambitious goals to reduce poverty. Social investment is also needed to support citizens to participate fully in social life and in employment. The Social Investment Package promotes more efficient and effective social policies, as well as better performing active inclusion strategies in the Member States. The Commission launched the European Pillar of Social Rights package in April 2017, which includes the principles and rights on access to and quality of public services in relation to equal opportunities and social protection and inclusion.

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Eurofound's work

Over the last four decades, Eurofound has researched and analysed many of these issues. It has gathered data from across Europe on a range of dimensions of quality of life – living standards, health, subjective well-being, family, social exclusion, care and work–life balance, housing and living environment, public services and quality of society.

Key contributions

Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) has gathered harmonised and fully comparable data on the living conditions and quality of life of Europeans and people in candidate countries since 2003. The four waves of the survey to date provide comprehensive information on the evolution of quality of life of various socioeconomic groups.

Analysis of the third wave (2012) provides an overview of the impacts of the crisis at that time, as well as knowledge of trends in quality of life since 2003. The findings offer additional insights into particular aspects such as subjective well-being or social inequalities, and issues facing particular groups like young people or workers over 50.

Separate research projects, as well as analyses from the EQLS, have been the basis of Eurofound reports on a range of related issues, including early childhood education and care, inadequate housing and how partial retirement may help extend working lives.

Ongoing work

Other topics addressed will include:

  • 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)
  • Examining services for labour market integration of people with disabilities based on data from the EQLS 2016 to support policymaking in designing relevant and efficient services
  • Mapping developments in advisory for household debt in EU countries as well as identifying barriers to access these services to combat poverty and assessing take-up
  • Analysing differences and inequalities in access to social services of general interest in the EU and assessing the nature and extent of convergence/divergence


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