Living conditions

15 September 2022

Father and children at meal together

Living conditions  are the circumstances or factors affecting the way in which people live, particularly with regard to their welRead more

Living conditions  are the circumstances or factors affecting the way in which people live, particularly with regard to their well-being. The term ‘living conditions’ is closely related to that of ‘quality of life.’ The latter is the degree to which an individual is healthy, comfortable and able to participate in or enjoy life events. The term ‘quality of life’ then can refer to both the experience an individual has of his or her own life and to the living conditions in which individuals find themselves. 

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Recent updates

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EU context

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Upward social convergence, that is improving living standards, working conditions and economic outcomes across Member States, is a principal goal of the EU. Monitoring and mapping the evolution of living conditions and quality of life in EU Member States is therefore a priority. 

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Upward social convergence, that is improving living standards, working conditions and economic outcomes across Member States, is a principal goal of the EU. Monitoring and mapping the evolution of living conditions and quality of life in EU Member States is therefore a priority. 

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. 

In March 2021, the European Commission launched the Action Plan to turn the Pillar’s 20 principles into concrete actions to benefit EU citizens in their daily lives, and proposing headline targets for the EU to reach over the next decade. A new ambitious target of lifting at least 15 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2030 puts living conditions and living standards high on the social policy agenda. The Pillar is accompanied by the Social Scoreboard – a list of indicators to monitor progress towards implementation of these principles in Member States. 

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.  

Eurofound’s work on living conditions links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on a stronger Europe in the world. 

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European Industrial Relations Dictionary

Research

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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.Read more

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 involves mapping and analysing key elements for the improvement of living conditions of people, including information on their perception of quality of life and society. The research findings aim to inform the creation of policies to improve living standards and promote social cohesion in the face of economic disparities and social inequalities.

Due to the health and ensuing economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic, the study of living conditions and quality of life has gained even more importance. Eurofound will investigate the impact of the economic crisis on the living conditions of Europeans in different life stages and the role played by various initiatives implemented to alleviate the social hardship of various groups of citizens. The Agency will continue to monitor trends in this area in light of this new challenge.

European Quality of Life Survey

Eurofound's European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) documents the living conditions and social situation of European citizens. Launched in 2003, it has carried out four editions of the survey since then, 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 EQLS provides information 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 upward convergence in the EU, in terms of Europeans’ living conditions and their quality of life.

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

Living, working and COVID-19

Eurofound’s e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, captures the experience of living and working at different stages through the pandemic, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. 

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 household over-indebtedness, reducing the non-take-up of social benefits, the living conditions of the Roma, the cost of inadequate housing, as well as living conditions in urban versus rural areas.

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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. 

  • Publications (143)
  • Data
  • Ongoing work (2)

Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations. 

Data

A selection of related data on this topic are linked below. 

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles. 

 

Other ongoing work

  • Report to examine fairness and optimism for the future and their relationship to people’s perceptions and realities (objective indicators of social and economic situation and living standards) 
  • Mapping developments in advisory for household debt in EU countries as well as identifying barriers to access these services to combat poverty and assessing take-up
  • Monitoring convergence in living conditions and providing in-depth analyses of convergence trends among European countries as well as a discussion of policy options to restore convergence among Member States
  • Report on regional convergence and inequalities, which investigates evolutions of social imbalances (e.g. unemployment, social exclusion, poverty) at the regional level and examines the relationship between growth, regional disparities and interpersonal inequalities