COVID-19

9 december 2021

Image of man in protective suit and mask disinfecting warehouse full of food products

It has been over a year since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit Europe and many of the response measures necessary to deal with the pandemic, from Read more

It has been over a year since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit Europe and many of the response measures necessary to deal with the pandemic, from working from home to social distancing, are now part of our everyday lives. Almost every aspect of our working and family lives has changed and, likewise, all of Eurofound’s research areas have been marked by COVID-19. Not only did we roll out three rounds of the now landmark Living, working and COVID-19 online survey in 12 months to analyse the rapid change that is ongoing, but the analyses in our existing surveys and flagship reports have specifically looked at the impacts of the pandemic across the board.

Unfortunately, findings to date paint a bleak picture. In spring 2021, mental well-being reached its lowest level across all age groups since the onset of the pandemic and young people were particularly affected, trust in institutions plummeted and across Europe citizens felt the divisive social and economic fallouts with a dwindling number viewing crisis support measures as fair and efficient. However, Eurofound’s role is not to simply establish what has taken place, but to also provide evidence-based analysis that can assist with policy formulation. We have highlighted that COVID-19 could be a catalyst for fundamental change that will define the future of Europe , and that rather than ‘recovering’ from a crisis like we did a decade ago, we can instead reset our expectations for our lives and reshape our understanding of what we can achieve in cooperation.

The long-term impacts of the pandemic on life and the world of work will be explored in our upcoming research, with an immediate focus on how the lockdowns have changed the labour market, how digitisation has changed the workplace, how COVID-19 has impacted business continuity and how crises impact equality and cohesion in Europe. The outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe may be moving gradually into history, but the long-term impacts of the pandemic on our work and lives is just beginning.

Read the latest report and infographic, as well as commentary on how COVID-19 is impacting the EU:

See the most recent blogs from our researchers, defining the labour market, quality of life and working conditions trends that we are currently researching, as well as the possible policy pathways for the future.  

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EU context

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The impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and particularly the response measures taken by national governments, have already profoundly affected the regular life and work of people in the EU.Read more

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and particularly the response measures taken by national governments, have already profoundly affected the regular life and work of people in the EU. National and EU authorities have launched a range of support measures, not least to relieve the immediate pressure experienced by specific sectors, many self-employed people and SMEs.

While the EU does not have direct legislative power over health matters (this being the responsibility of individual Member States), the response of the EU – and particularly the European Commission – has focused on stabilising the EU economy, putting in place border control measures, reinforcing our public health sectors and now securing the production of vaccines for citizens.

The Commission’s response to the Coronavirus consists of three main pillars. The first pillar covers the medical field, working on prevention and procurement and relief measures and foresight. The second covers mobility, from transportation to travel advice, including Schengen-related queries. The third covers the economy, looking in-depth at various business sectors – such as tourism or transport, and trade, as well as value chains and macro-economy.

On 10 February 2021, the Commission welcomed the European Parliament’s approval of the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility available to EU Member States to support reforms and investments under NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost recovery and help Europe emerge stronger from the crisis. The Facility is closed linked with the Commission priorities for a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe.

The European Central Bank initiated a €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) in March 2020 to counter the serious risks to the monetary policy transmission mechanism, increasing the initial amount by €600 billion on 4 June 2020 and by €500 billion on 10 December 2020, for a new total of €1,850 billion.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is the EU Agency providing an overview of the COVID-19 situation, as well as current risk assessments on their website.

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Research

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In light of COVID-19, Eurofound has adjusted its research to:

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In light of COVID-19, Eurofound has adjusted its research to:

  • monitor the evolving situation and collect data regarding the impact of this unprecedented situation on the lives of Europeans via an online survey, as well as measures taken by policy actors to combat the effects of the pandemic on employment, working conditions and living conditions
  • provide an analysis of specific topics , such as employment effects, effects on specific sectors, effectiveness of specific measures (for example, short-time work schemes).

Initially, more in-depth analysis in the form of an ad-hoc report focuses on evaluating employment effects and looking at measures implemented with a view to limiting the negative effects.

In the medium to longer term, Eurofound is already actively exploring other areas where it could possibly adjust its current and future work to respond effectively to the situation.

Labour market

Over the years, Eurofound has established itself as a key resource on employment and labour markets. Previous and ongoing research includes the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM), which monitors the employment impact of large-scale restructuring events in Europe. Eurofound will build on the work it currently carries out in the area of labour market monitoring and analysis. The ERM will adjust its focus to include monitoring of the impact of COVID-19 on the employment effects of large-scale restructuring events in Europe.

Efforts will also be made to adapt elements of the existing European Jobs Monitor (EJM) to further understand the changing employment structure in Europe in view of the crisis.

Platform work has been an important topic over the past few years and has gained in importance during the present crisis. Most recently, Eurofound published an article highlighting the sick pay void for platform workers due to the Coronavirus, which draws information from Eurofound’s Platform economy repository. This database is continuously updated with information on how the crises impacts platform work and platform workers. A 2019 policy brief addressed the employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.

Eurofound will be looking to analyse new developments, such as the increased demand for some types of platform work and associated health risks for workers, as well as the decrease in demand for other types of platform work and associated earnings and protection gap.

Support measures

Both the EU and national governments have introduced a variety of support measures aimed at averting a new recession. Eurofound will continuously update the ERM support instruments database and add a specific focus on COVID-19 measures.

The fact sheets in the ERM events database are updated on a weekly basis to show redundancies and the database is now searchable for input related to COVID-19.

Eurofound has also compiled a variety of information on social protection and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – two areas of great importance for upcoming or already introduced support measures.

Ongoing work on examining the social partners’ involvement in the elaboration and implementation of support measures will expand to include the extraordinary policies and measures introduced to combat the impact of COVID-19. An assessment of their effectiveness will be carried out using the Network of Eurofound Correspondents.

Workplace issues and working life

One of the most radical changes for many people during COVID-19 has been the switch to teleworking , due to the introduction of quarantine and safety measures. The subject of teleworking is covered in Eurofound’s COVID-19 e-survey and the findings show that teleworking has taken off in all EU countries with over a third of those in employment starting to work remotely as a result of the pandemic, with obvious consequences for work–life balance. Future research will look at the effects of the rise in teleworking and ICT-based mobile work and implications for work–life balance, as well as the right to disconnect.

Other important research areas

  • With increasing calls for the introduction of a minimum income or the use of other tools as a stabiliser for future crises, Eurofound proposes taking steps to analyse this in greater detail.
  • In light of the launch of the fourth European Company Survey in autumn 2020, follow-up interviews will be carried out to map challenges reported by companies and the measures introduced.

Societal impact, quality of life and public services

Eurofound has carried out a range of research on youth and specifically on young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), who emerged as one of the most vulnerable groups following the Great Recession. Considering the current crisis, Eurofound will examine the impact on young people as part of its ongoing study on NEETs, as well as examining the implications of the unprecedented increase in digital solutions (e-learning, e-healthcare, e-entertainment/leisure). Eurofound’s COVID-19 e-survey already shows the serious impact yet again on young people, as they cope with the lowest levels of mental well-being and high levels of loneliness. Young men also appear most affected by job loss in the current crisis.

It will also expand its work on societal change and trust in institutions – in particular, trust in national governments – in light of the impact of COVID-19. Eurofound’s COVID-19 e-survey covers trust in institutions and findings show that trust in the EU has recovered since the low levels recorded at the outset of the pandemic, while trust in governments has declined in most countries. Highest trust levels lie with healthcare systems in combating the COVID-19 crisis.

Existing work carried out in the area of social protection could also be extended to address how new provisions complement existing social protection cover and the costs and benefits of such initiatives.

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    Data collection

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    Drawing on its Network of Eurofound Correspondents, while also adapting the focus of its in-house resources, Eurofound has begun to monitor the critical changes the crisis has brought to the labour market, working conditions and quality of life across the EU in the short term andRead more

    Drawing on its Network of Eurofound Correspondents, while also adapting the focus of its in-house resources, Eurofound has begun to monitor the critical changes the crisis has brought to the labour market, working conditions and quality of life across the EU in the short term and aims to map how different Member States have responded to the challenges that have emerged.

    Eurofound has taken a multi-pronged response in terms of data collection. This includes:

    • an online survey on Living, working and COVID-19, launched in April 2020
    • database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, for which a mapping report is available

    These projects complement a range of ongoing or new research on the implications for quality of life, employment and working life, as outlined above.

    E-survey

    Image of Living, working and COVID-19 infographic November 2021
    Infographic 2021

    Eurofound’s unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides a snapshot of the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU and beyond, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Three rounds of this large-scale online survey have been carried out to date. This allows for comparison between the first round launched on 9 April 2020, when most Member States were in lockdown, and the second round in July 2020, when society and economies were slowly reopening. A third round in March 2021 coincided with another critical period as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown to curb the spread of new virus strains, while vaccination programmes were also being rolled out. An overview report for the first two rounds is available, as well as a factsheet for the third round, along with a range of accompanying data pages.

    The report provides an analysis of the key issues raised by the results in the first and second rounds of the survey. It highlights the key pressure points caused by the crisis and details the impact on different groups while also exploring the evolution of these changes over the three-month period. The survey examines quality of life and quality of society during COVID-19, including life satisfaction, happiness and optimism, health and levels of trust in institutions. It covers people’s work situation, their work–life balance and use of teleworking during this crisis. The second round also examines job quality, health and safety at work, online schooling, use of online services, and the extent to which respondents had requested and availed of government support schemes.

    The third round of the e-survey sheds light on the social and economic situation of people after nearly a full year of living with COVID-19 restrictions, with a focus on those groups hardest hit. It includes additional questions on attitudes and willingness to be vaccinated. As well as presenting an overview of the main findings, it tracks the developments across the 27 EU Member States since the survey was first launched in April 2020.

    Drawing on the unique results of this pan-European survey and building on previous research, Eurofound aims to provide critical support to policymakers as they face the challenges ahead.

    COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

    Working life in EU Member States is facing enormous pressure due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, several lockdown situations and the precautionary measures since taken by governments. Based on research from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents, Eurofound has begun to look at the initial reactions of European institutions and some responses by EU social partners to those challenges.

    Eurofound’s database COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis. It also gathers examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. A mapping report is now available.

    In reaction to COVID-19, many countries have introduced measures such as the deferral of debt and mortgage repayments. Eurofound could explore moving beyond its recent research into household over-indebtedness, to provide an overview of such measures and whether these were applied to the general population or only to certain groups.

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    Publications & data

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    The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.

    • Publicaties (96)
    • Gegevens
    • Lopende werkzaamheden (11)

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