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Care may be globally defined as the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance and protection of someone or something. It includes childcare, long-term care of older persons or those with disabilities and healthcare. To understand the implications of care, it is worth distinguishing between care recipients and people with care responsibilities (carers). It is also important to distinguish between care as paid or unpaid work and informal care provided by family and friends. The provision of care services is a key component of social protection, improving quality of life and access to education and employment for EU citizens. It includes childcare, healthcare and long-term care. 


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Eurofound research

Eurofound research focuses on a range of care-related topics. These include working and caring, initiatives to support informal carers involved in paid work as well as those who are not, the increased need for long-term care, childcare provisions and access to public services.

Survey data on care

Eurofound’s regular European Quality of Life Surveys (EQLS) and European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS) cover various aspects related to these topics.

The EWCS provides valuable information about working time and flexible working arrangements, paid and unpaid work, work organisation and work–life balance. Research has covered topics such as the working conditions of women and men, the working conditions of an ageing workforce, as well as health and well-being at work.

The EQLS offers extensive data on care, including the high amount of informal care performed by people who are not in paid employment. The EQLS 2016 provides a range of information about quality of and access to healthcare, long-term care and childcare services in particular. Based on this data, a 2019 study examines access to and quality of key public services in the EU. It reveals citizens’ perceptions of quality in healthcare, long-term care and childcare and compares them between countries, groups in society and the receivers of care and indirect service users.

Access to childcare, healthcare and long-term care

Research looking at access to early childhood education and care (ECEC), healthcare and long-term care services across various Member States outlines the barriers to the take-up of care services and differences in access issues between population groups. As part of its convergence monitoring hub, Eurofound measures convergence in child poverty via a number of indicators measuring social inclusion and protection.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, research has examined access to healthcare and the rise in unmet medical needs both during and in the aftermath of the crisis. It highlights the policy need to look at the impact this will have on the health of a workforce from which more work is expected in the coming years. Moreover, research has explored the impact of the pandemic on the quality of life of older citizens, including the effects on the use of care services and older people’s reliance on other support.

With population ageing and the need for long-term care services on the rise, research has also looked at the employment and working conditions of the long-term care workforce, examined recruitment and retention measures in home- and community-based care services, and also looked at support services for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities and chronic health problems – both physical and mental.

Combining care and work: towards sustainable work

To be available for employment, work demands must be reconciled with those of one’s private life – in particular, the needs of children or dependent adult relatives. And these needs shift over the course of a working life. Eurofound discusses these issues in its EWCS research on working time and work–life balance in a life course perspective, and on working time patterns for sustainable work.

Addressing the childcare needs of working parents and the care needs of older or disabled relatives and dependants has become central to the discussion around resolving the work–life balance conflict. Eurofound’s research on reconciling working and caring responsibilities shows the challenges involved in combining work and informal care in times of demographic change, and what measures are available to working carers to allow them to balance these demands. Research on work preferences after 50 highlights the demands on older workers as care providers.

Key outputs

EU context

Improved access to quality and affordable childcare and elderly care can help to facilitate the European Commission’s goals to increase employment, particularly the participation of women and older workers in the labour market. The European Pillar of Social Rights puts a strong focus on care, firstly regarding the right to equal opportunities and access to the labour market. This focuses on the right of parents and those with caring responsibilities to a better work–life balance, with suitable leave and flexible working arrangements, as well as access to care services. In the area of social protection and inclusion, it highlights the right of children to affordable early childhood education and good-quality care provision. It stresses the right to timely access to affordable and quality healthcare. It also underlines the right of all to affordable long-term and good-quality care services, particularly home-care and community-based services. 

The European Child Guarantee, adopted in June 2021, aims to ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education. The Council Recommendation on high-quality early childhood education and care systems, adopted in May 2019, aims to support Member States in improving access to and quality of their services. Eurofound participates in a thematic Working Group as part of this initiative. Adopted in June 2019, the new Directive on work–life balance for parents and carers, aims to increase women’s participation in the labour market and the take-up of family-related leave and flexible working arrangements. 

On 7 September 2022, the European Commission presented a new European Care Strategy as part of its Work Programme 2022 to ensure 'quality, affordable and accessible care services' across the EU. 

Eurofound’s work on care links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on an economy that works for people. Eurofound has contributed in the recent past to the EU initiative on work–life balance.


European Industrial Relations Dictionary 

Eurofound expert(s)


Hans Dubois is a senior research manager in the Social Policies unit at Eurofound. His research topics include housing, over-indebtedness, healthcare, long-term care, social...

Senior research manager,
Social policies research unit

Daniel Molinuevo is a research manager in the Social Policies unit, having joined Eurofound in 2010. His research on health and social care has focused on the quality and...

Research manager,
Social policies research unit
Publications results (98)

The urban-rural divide in EU countries has grown in recent years, and the depopulation of certain rural areas in favour of cities is a challenge when it comes to promoting economic development and maintaining social cohesion and convergence.

18 October 2023

The European Child Guarantee was established in 2021 to ensure that children in need have access to a set of key services. This policy brief analyses trends and disparities in children’s access to early childhood education and care, education, healthcare, nutrition and housing.

21 September 2023

I denna rapport behandlas covid-19-krisens inverkan på de sociala tjänsterna i EU. Pandemin hade en negativ inverkan på de sociala tjänsterna, men tack vare den drog vi samtidigt lärdomar av hur vi kan anpassa de sociala tjänsterna för att hantera nya utmaningar och sociala risker. En lärdom är att

16 August 2023

I denna rapport analyseras den roll som social dialog och kollektiva förhandlingar spelade i hanteringen av de utmaningar som covid-19-pandemin medförde eller förvärrade inom sjukhussektorn. Rapporten undersöker också om den befintliga sociala dialogen och de befintliga kollektiva

01 December 2022

Covid-19-pandemin har förstärkt ojämlikheten i samhället i Europa, bland annat genom bristande jämställdhet mellan kvinnor och män på flera viktiga områden. Denna rapport ger en överblick över jämställdhetsbristerna före covid-19-krisen och beskriver hur pandemin har påverkat könsklyftorna. I

13 October 2022

Denna rapport behandlar covid-19-pandemins påverkan på livskvaliteten hos de äldre, bland annat vilken inverkan den haft på deras välbefinnande, ekonomi, sysselsättning och sociala delaktighet. I rapporten undersöks effekterna på utnyttjandet av vård- och omsorgstjänster och äldres beroende av annat

28 January 2022

The impact of COVID-19 has moved public health up the EU social policy agenda. As the EU directs its efforts towards establishing a European Health Union to guard against future health crises, this policy brief examines the extent to which the EU achieved upward convergence in terms of health and

30 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the accessibility of health, education and care services for all Europeans. This is also the case for children, who in several countries have seen their schools closed and replaced with remote learning. They have been affected, too, by the pandemic

28 January 2021

The long-term care (LTC) sector employs a growing share of workers in the EU and is experiencing increasing staff shortages. The LTC workforce is mainly female and a relatively large and increasing proportion is aged 50 years or older. Migrants are often concentrated in certain LTC jobs. This report

14 December 2020

Rätten till tillgång till vårdtjänster av god kvalitet framhålls i den europeiska pelaren för sociala rättigheter. Denna rapport fokuserar på tre omsorgstjänster, dvs. förskoleverksamhet och barnomsorg, hälso- och sjukvård samt långvarig vård och omsorg. Tillgång till dessa tjänster har visat sig

08 October 2020

Online resources results (14)

Eurofound presentation to the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), Ivailo Kalfin, Executive Director, Eurofound, 24 January 2023.

23 januari 2023

This episode of Eurofound Talks looks at care: care for children, care for older people, care for those who are frail or with disabilities, access to care, the quality of care, and the working conditions of care workers. Mary McCaughey speaks with Senior Research Manager Hans Dubois about how care

24 oktober 2022

Wages in long-term care and other social services 21% below average

New data from the EU Structure of Earnings Survey (SES) show that, on average, EU Member States paid their social services workers 21% less than the average national hourly earnings in 2018: this compares with 19% less than the average in 2010 and 20% less in 2014. The majority of social services

Living, working and COVID-19: Impact on gender equality 11 March 2021, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) virtual meeting Presentation by Maria Jepsen, Acting Executive Director, Eurofound

22 mars 2021

United Kingdom: Low take-up of Shared Parental Leave scheme

The Shared Parental Leave (SPL) regulations came into force on the 1st of December 2014 and apply to eligible parents where a baby is due, or a child is placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015. This report outlines the details of the scheme and then presents the findings of a number of

Austria: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

New legislation regarding social and wage dumping, qualification and childcare benefits, the federal government’s work programme and an increase in members for the Austrian Trade Union Federation are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments

Czech Republic: Conference highlights difficulties for carers in labour market participation

Research findings presented during a conference on informal caregivers in the Czech Republic revealed the difficulties that workers providing long-term care face in participating in the labour force due to a lack of flexible working regimes and part-time jobs.

Blogs results (9)

Child poverty and exclusion in the EU is on the rise. To address this worrying trend, EU policy needs to focus on access to services, which requires improving data collection, targeting inequalities and involving the workforce that delivers services in policymaking.

24 oktober 2023

The dawn of 2022 brought muted optimism to a Europe beginning to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the progress of vaccination programmes worldwide brought hope. Government and EU support during the pandemic had kept unemployment at bay, averting the widescale collapse of businesses. In step wi

19 december 2022

The European Pillar of Social Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to affordable long-term care services of good quality, in particular home-care and community-based services’. Taking a step to make this principle a reality, the European Commission is currently preparing a European Care

5 maj 2022

The pandemic has had differential impacts on women. Raised consciousness about them must be applied to advance gender equality in recovery measures. All crises have a strongly gendered impact and none more so than the current pandemic, across a range of indicators. While the virus itself seems to

28 april 2021

Healthcare providers have been overwhelmed by the demand for COVID-19-related care. Medical appointments and treatments for other conditions have often been delayed, potentially leading to escalating health problems and greater future care needs among those who have missed out. If the pandemic leads

18 januari 2021

An ageing Europe and rising public expenditure on long-term care have signalled for some time that the fundamentals of care provision need to be addressed. However, the shocking death toll in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many long-term care services were ill-equipped to

2 december 2020

In this blog piece, originally published in Social Europe, Eurofound Research Officer Daniel Molinuevo looks at the service providers delivering long-term care to older people in Europe.

18 januari 2018

Austerity measures introduced during the crisis have disproportionately concerned cuts in the measures that are most vital for reducing child poverty: cash and tax benefits, a new Eurofound report shows. Furthermore, there has been a move away from universal coverage towards more targeted support

3 februari 2016
Upcoming publications results (1)

This report explores the implications of the right of all EU citizens to live independently. It investigates the barriers faced by people who wish to live independently, and the situation of people at risk of living in institutional settings. It maps the various measures taken by EU Member States to

October 2024


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