Monitoring quality of life in Europe (2003)

See info sheet providing an overview of the project, Monitoring quality of life in Europe.

The fieldwork stage of the Foundation's large-scale quality of life survey began on 12 May. The questionnaire will produce comprehensive data on living conditions and quality of life issues.

The survey domains will include:

  • housing and living environment
  • health and health services
  • education
  • employment and working conditions
  • family and social networks
  • time use
  • social capital and public services
  • economic resources

Some 26,000 face-to-face interviews in the 28 EU and candidate countries will be carried out during the summer.

The data should be available in September, with full analysis beginning in November.

An overview of the main results will be produced in April 2004, followed by a series of policy papers on different aspects of quality of life in Europe.

The Foundation has launched its initiative to monitor and report on living conditions and quality of life in Europe. It will focus on employment, economic resources, family life, community life, health and educational attainment in a survey on 'quality of life in Europe' covering 28 countries in 2003. A new network of experts will assist in the development and analysis of this work.

The first challenge has been to develop a concept or approach to living conditions that is appropriate to the Foundation's mission, and therefore relevant to the needs of policy makers in public authorities and among the social partners, specifically at EU level. 'Living conditions' clearly embraces a very wide area of policy interest, with a particular need to map and understand disparities associated with age, gender, health, ethnicity and regio

The Foundation's four-year programme emphasises the need to link our assessment of living conditions to the changing nature of employment, work organisation, and working conditions, and to the modernisation of social protection and social welfare services. Quality of life for Europe's population will be at the centre of the Foundation's work.

Conceptual Framework

A report has been published which identifies the core issues on which the monitoring should focus and which examines existing sources of information. It proposes that the conceptual framework should:

  • focus broadly on quality of life rather than narrowly on living conditions - and see quality of life primarily in terms of the scope individuals have to achieve their own ends;
  • seek to document resources as well as living conditions and, where possible, key contextual characteristics of the various arenas in which people operate;
  • measure resources and living conditions through objective/descriptive indicators;
  • incorporate subjective information, but focus on the relationship between attitudes or assessments and resources/conditions;
  • cover societal as well as individual well-being.

This report proposes that tracking change over time is at the core of monitoring. In the case of multi-dimensional entities such as living conditions and quality of life, it is also necessary to probe the relationships between the dimensions, and between them and external factors. This is a more complex task than the regular measurement of trends in key indicators, but an analytical rather than descriptive approach adds value and provides an essential foundation for evidence-based policy.

Core Focus

A limited number of core areas were selected according to their centrality to the quality of life, their position on the EU policy agenda, coverage in existing exercises, and the feasibility of monitoring. The core focus of the Foundation's monitoring activity will be on:

  • the domains of employment, economic resources, family life, community life, health, and educational attainment;
  • the inter-relationships between them, in particular between work and family and community life;
  • time use as a crucial aspect of that interaction, and of inter-relationships across the domains of life more generally;
  • access to and quality of social provision (notably health care), as a key aspect of quality of life within these core domains.

The conceptual framework was debated in a workshop held at the Foundation in October. This considered how the monitoring activities will contribute to social indicators and reporting at EU level, as well as how to strengthen networking between monitoring initiatives.

Outputs

Based on the framework outlined above, a database of statistical indicators was developed from comparable EU-wide data sources. These and other existing data will inform analysis of the situation in both the EU and candidate countries.

However, there is also a need for new information, which will be met in part by a 28-country survey on 'quality of life in Europe'. This commenced during May 2003, following the development of a questionnaire in consultation with specialists from across the EU and candidate countries.

To assist in developing this work and in the interpretation of results a network of experts is being established with representatives from each of the candidate countries.