Public services

13 December 2018

Public services such as health, education, social care and transport are essential for achieving high levels of social protection, social cohesion and social inclusion. But it is the quality of and access to services that determines their success across a changing social and demographic landscape.

The challenge for policymakers is to ensure the design and delivery of health and social services that meet the varied needs of citizens. That challenge has been compounded by severe financial constraints in recent years and by increasing demand, driven in part by demographic ageing and, in some part, by the influx of refugees to Europe. In addition to affordability and quality, newer issues are also emerging. These include the risk that new digital channels for service delivery may isolate already disadvantaged communities and the potential threat of increasing diversity of service providers on access to and quality of public services.

The Commission’s Social Investment Package, launched in 2013, urges Member States to put greater emphasis on high-quality public services. It highlights the importance of improving access to early childhood education and care, as well as quality healthcare as a key element in improving overall health and maintaining the productivity of the workforce. Furthermore, the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy for Europe, adopted in 2015, puts an emphasis on modernising public services as a way to boost competitiveness. Embracing new technologies, online public services and cross-border interoperability are critical to increasing cost-efficiencies and quality of services.

Eurofound's work

Eurofound examines the needs of citizens generally, with a special focus on the young, the elderly, those with physical or mental health problems, and those with a migrant background. It monitors and analyses changes in public services brought about by budgetary constraints, changes in policies and advances in technology and digitalisation. Through in-depth case studies, Eurofound’s research into public services also examines the perspectives of service providers and their response to changing user needs.

Key contributions

Analysis from Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines the impact of the crisis on European society and how Europeans perceive the quality of their societies and of their public services. In-depth studies address a number of key themes, including the effect of the economic crisis and welfare reforms on living standards and quality of society.

In particular, using EQLS data, research has looked at social inequalities in four critical areas of life: health, standard of living, productive and valued activities, and individual, family and social life. Families have also been the focus of analysis, looking at the changing quality of life across the EU for different types of families with children and comparing their living standards and social situation. 

Other areas of interest have been the social and economic costs and consequences of poor housing, as well as the rise of private provision of hospital services across Europe. Furthermore, the impact of the rising inflow of mobile citizens on the public services of EU Member States has been the subject of debate.

Measures to support the social inclusion of young people and experience of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee have been important topics for Eurofound. In addition, access to early childhood education and care services and the quality of such services have been gaining greater prominence in the EU policy debate and have also been the focus of Eurofound research.

Using data from the fourth EQLS carried out in 2016, Eurofound’s research will examine how well public services are fulfilling the needs of social groups to assist policymakers in providing adequate and appropriate social services. Eurofound will address the impact of digitalisation across societal and geographical boundaries, examining how the design and delivery of health and social services can be supported by new technologies.

Ongoing work

  • Access to and quality of key public services in the EU
  • Life in European cities
  • Report based on EQLS module on healthcare, long-term care, childcare and education
  • Report with case studies of digitalisation in health and social services
  • Paper on measures to address inequalities in access to services among young people based on case study material and first analysis of service providers’ perspective.

 

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