Eurobarometer survey on European employment and social policy

According to an EU survey on ‘European employment and social policy’ published by the European Commission in November 2006, a large number of European citizens have a positive view of the EU’s role in employment issues and social affairs. The report also reveals that, while a vast majority of citizens underline the importance of qualifications and regular training in enhancing job security, only 24% of people have actually taken part in some form of training over the last 12 months. The main obstacles cited by respondents are financial restrictions and difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities.

On 6 November 2006, the European Commission published the results of a special Eurobarometer survey on ‘European employment and social policy’ in a summary (563Kb PDF) and full report (1.05Mb PDF). The report focuses on European citizens’ perceptions of the European Union’s role in employment issues and social affairs (especially in relation to the European Social Fund and the topic of flexicurity), the employment situation of European citizens and their perception of labour market policies, job seeking and training. The survey was carried out in the 25 EU Member States and in the two acceding countries to the EU, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as in two candidate countries, Croatia and Turkey.

Main findings

The first part of the survey deals with the perception of EU employment and social policies. A majority of Europeans have a positive view of the EU’s role in employment issues and social affairs. Positive estimates of European policy among citizens come from less than 50% of the population only in the UK, Germany, France, and, in particular, Turkey (29%). However, concrete knowledge of policies and instruments is weak. While 33% of survey respondents state that they have heard of the European Social Fund, only a few can identify its objectives, for example to fight unemployment (6%), to finance training (3%) and to ensure better working conditions (1%). Only a small proportion of citizens are aware of current policies like the Lisbon Strategy (12%) and the European Year of Mobility (13%).

Subsequent parts of the survey relate to the concept of flexicurity, the current European employment situation and the attitudes towards job-seeking and training. The statements which reflect the concept of flexicurity (such as ‘life-time jobs with the same employer are a thing of the past’) achieve a high acceptance rate of over 70%. On the other hand, questions about the current employment situation reveal that job stability is still high. Some 55% of people have changed employer only between one and five times throughout their working life, as few as 11% more than six times, while 18% of respondents have never changed their employer. Results also indicate that 84% of European citizens who are currently working are confident that they will keep their current job; moreover, this confidence has increased by three percentage points since the last survey in 2004.

Low level of training

Most meaningful are the results concerning regular training. Some 88% of the respondents agree that ‘regular training improves one’s job opportunities’. But only 24% of respondents have actually taken part in some form of training over the 12 months prior to the survey launch. Obstacles to training most commonly cited by citizens are: financial restrictions (37%), family responsibilities (26%), and lack of support from employer (18%). Measures of employment policy achieving the highest acceptance, apart from the support for people who want to start their own business (86%), include: support for regular training (87%), increasing childcare facilities (82%), and increasing care facilities for elderly persons or other dependents (79%).

Stefan Lücking, Technical University Munich for AWWW GmbH ArbeitsWelt – Working World

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