Living conditions

12 December 2018

The focus at EU level on lifting people out of poverty has put living conditions and living standards high on the social policy agenda. Despite positive changes in the labour market in recent years, the EU is still far from achieving its Europe 2020 target of lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2020. Monitoring and mapping the evolution of living conditions and quality of life in EU Member States is therefore still a priority.

The European Commission has established a set of quality of life statistics and launched the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) in 2003. EU-SILC gathers comparative data on income, poverty, social exclusion, housing conditions, labour, education and health.  

More recently, the European Pillar of Social Rights, jointly proclaimed by the EU institutions in November 2017, covers 20 principles under three core areas: equal opportunities and access to the labour market, which includes fairness related to living conditions and poverty; fair working conditions; social protection and inclusion, which includes housing and assistance for the homeless. In particular, the principles underline the role of public services in enhancing quality of life. The Pillar is accompanied by the Social Scoreboard – a list of indicators to monitor progress towards implementation of these principles in Member States.

Eurofound’s work

Part of Eurofound’s main role is to contribute to the planning and design of better living conditions in Europe. Since 1975, Eurofound has developed a programme of activities around the monitoring and analysis of living conditions and quality of life in Europe. The research aims to inform the creation of policies to improve living standards and promote social cohesion in the face of economic disparities and social inequalities.

European Quality of Life Survey

In 2003, Eurofound launched its European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) which documents the living conditions and social situation of European citizens. It has carried out four editions of the survey since 2003, the latest in 2016. 

EQLS data on living conditions include information on housing (tenancy type, dwelling inadequacies including energy poverty, housing insecurity), utility arrears, reported difficulties in making ends meet, material disadvantage (deprivation and economising), access to local services, as well as overall satisfaction with standard of living. 

Eurofound’s approach recognises that ‘quality of life’ is a broader concept than ‘living conditions’, and therefore has a broad range of indicators that enable an analysis of various living conditions in relation to overall well-being of individuals in a society. In this broader understanding, the survey the EQLS is informative about living conditions in terms of work–life balance and gender equality, quality of life of people with disabilities, and quality of care services. A range of the survey data can help evaluate progress towards implementing the key principles of the Social Pillar and complement indicators of the Social Scoreboard.

Through the EQLS, Eurofound can compare trends over time, which permits some conclusions to be drawn regarding progress towards greater convergence in Europe, in terms of Europeans’ living conditions and perception of their lives.

A series of reports accompanies each survey edition, including an overview report and a number of more detailed analytical reports. 

Other living conditions research

Based on various sources and approaches, Eurofound has also looked at the social situation of specific groups, including young people and those over 50, families and young people living with their parents and in multigenerational households, the working poor and the economically inactive population. Research has also been carried out on indebtedness, reducing the non-take-up of social benefits, the living conditions of the Roma, as well as living conditions in urban versus rural areas. 

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