Press release, 29 June 2012

Eurofound publishes its 2011 Yearbook on Living and working in Europe:

Key trends identified in Eurofound’s new Living and working in Europe report

(Dublin, Ireland) More jobs were lost than created across Europe in 2011, and although company restructuring, job losses and site closures caused significant industrial action, many countries still experienced little or no strike activity. The recession and its aftermath were particularly severe on young workers, who found that education no longer offers protection against unemployment. Eurofound’s second annual Yearbook on Living and working in Europe highlights key trends in Europe’s development, crucial for understanding the changing challenges it is encountering.

Europe’s social policy agenda is wide but its goal is, broadly, to improve the quality of life of people living in the EU. Volunteering is an expression of social connectedness, a recognition by individuals of their responsibility to contribute to the common good. To raise awareness of volunteering and to improve the opportunities for participation in voluntary activities, 2011 was designated the European Year of Voluntary Activities Promoting Active Citizenship.

Eurofound uncovered considerable differences in the extent of volunteering across the EU. In total, one-fifth of respondents to the European Quality of Life Survey engaged in organised voluntary work. It was highest in northern and western European countries, reaching 40%–45% in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands, which suggests a strong tradition of volunteering in those countries. Participation was lower in southern and eastern Europe, with rates averaging between 10% and 15%.

‘Our second annual Yearbook on Living and working in Europe provides a bird’s-eye view of what Eurofound presented by way of policy-oriented research during the course of 2011,’ says Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Eurofound’s Director, about the new report. ‘While we do not claim to present all of our work during the last year here, the Yearbook conveys the main findings of some of our key currents of research – in particular, results and analysis from our three pan-European surveys on company practices, working conditions and quality of life.’

Eurofound’s research on employment trends showed that the lost jobs were mainly middle- and lower-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and retail, while the new jobs were mostly higher-skilled and better-paying jobs in knowledge-intensive services. There were big differences between countries: some countries experienced job growth skewed towards the top of the pay distribution, some experienced polarisation, with growth at the lower and upper ends of the pay distribution, but contraction in the middle, and other countries saw downgrading, with greater job destruction in higher-paid jobs and growth or small declines in lower-paid employment.

The greater impact of the crisis on male-dominated sectors had a narrowing effect on the gender gap in employment. Most (80%) of the net decline in employment affected male workers, in jobs that tended overwhelmingly to be in middle- and mid- low-paid categories. Job losses among women were exclusively in middle- and low-paid jobs, in occupations such as retail salespersons and blue-collar workers in textiles and clothing manufacture and agriculture.

2011 also saw developments in policies to maintain older workers in work in nine Member States - Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Employment rates for older people have increased over the past decade in these countries, although they vary widely. In Sweden, for example, over 60% of workers aged 60–64 years are in work, compared to less than 20% in Belgium and Hungary.

Young workers struggled where older workers gained in 2011. The recession and its aftermath were particularly severe on young workers; youth unemployment rose to 21% across the EU by mid-2011, equal to around five million workers, and reached as high as 43% in Spain. In the current economic stasis, education is no longer a protection against unemployment. Of great concern is the group of young people ‘not in employment, education or training’  - or NEETs. Eurofound’s research show that around 7.5 million young people between 15-24 are in the NEET group, and proportions vary greatly across Member States, from 4% in the Netherlands to 22% in Bulgaria. The annual cost of NEETs to society is estimated at about €120bn.

Download the Yearbook

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, media manager, on email:, telephone: +353-1-2043124, or mobile: +353-876-593 507.


Eurofound provides social partners, governments and EU decision makers with relevant, timely and unbiased research results so that the lives of European citizens can be improved.

The yearbook highlights the content of Eurofound's findings while the related Annual activity report of the Authorising Officer 2011 covers the formal reporting on operations, staff and budget matters.

For more information about Eurofound and its work, and free access to all our data and findings, find us on the following social media channels:

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