Aspects of trust are covered across a range of Eurofound research, in its surveys and other research linked with improving living and working conditions in the EU.
Trust and quality of life
Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines levels of trust among citizens in public institutions such as national governments, the legal system, the EU, the news media and the police. The latest survey, EQLS 2016, found that there is a general improvement in quality of society indicators, including an increased trust in national institutions. In particular, young people (18–24 years) registered the highest increase in trust in other people, possibly indicative of a new cohort less scarred by the economic crisis after 2008.
Societal change, social cohesion and trust
Using the EQLS data, Eurofound has looked at societal change and trust in institutions. A number of questions were considered in determining the quality of society. How do we build trust in our institutions? What drives trust? What is the relevance of insecurity?
Research based on the EQLS also examined European societies in terms of social cohesion, particularly social tensions, social exclusion, interpersonal trust and community engagement. It analysed the links between societal characteristics (quality of society) and well-being of different social groups, looking at how levels of societal tensions have changed in European societies over time (2003–2016).
COVID-19 and the impact on trust
The COVID-19 pandemic, as the most severe economic and social shock in living memory, has had wide-ranging effects on people’s quality of life and work, including their perceptions of the society around them. Eurofound's unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, aimed to capture the most immediate changes and their impact, with the aim of helping to shape the response to this crisis. Five rounds of the survey have been carried out, allowing for comparison during the different stages of living through the pandemic. Adapting EQLS questions, part of the survey focused on people’s levels of trust in institutions, including the healthcare system, and optimism about the future.
Eurofound published the first results from the fifth round of the e-survey in July 2022. This was followed by a joint factsheet with the European Training Foundation presenting the final results in autumn 2022.
Using data from the e-survey, Eurofound examined how citizens’ trust in institutions – including national governments, the EU, science and the media – evolved during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Innovation, working conditions and trust
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) examines trust between management and employees in European companies. The research shows a trusting relationship between employee representation and management, in combination with direct employee participation, is associated with higher levels of performance and well-being and creates a positive environment for innovative action. Trust is also an important element of well-functioning workplace social dialogue to deliver win–win outcomes.
Looking at this from the working conditions perspective, the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) shows a positive association between different job quality indices and trust. It confirms that mutual trust between management and employees, as well as recognition and good cooperation, are important aspects of organisational management, resulting in positive outcomes both for the organisation and its workers.