Quality of life and public services

Quality of life is a broad concept covering a number of different dimensions. It encompasses both objective factors such as health, work status and living conditions, as well as the subjective assessments of an individual’s life situation and perception of quality of society. The accessibility and quality of public services are important determinants of quality of life. These services, including health and care services, education and housing, underpin social protection, cohesion and inclusion and are also closely linked to levels of trust in government and institutions. 

In this context, today’s policymakers face critical challenges, including the impact of the financial crisis, an ageing demographic, internal EU mobility and migration. The European platform against poverty and social exclusion is a flagship initiative of the Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy, which set ambitious goals to reduce poverty. Social investment is also needed to support citizens to participate fully in social life and in employment. The Social Investment Package promotes more efficient and effective social policies, as well as better performing active inclusion strategies in the Member States. The Commission launched the European Pillar of Social Rights package in April 2017. The principles and rights on access to public services are covered in the categories on equal opportunities and social protection and inclusion.

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Eurofound's work

Over the last four decades, Eurofound has researched and analysed many of these issues. It has gathered data from across Europe on a range of dimensions of quality of life – living standards, health, subjective well-being, family, social exclusion, care and work–life balance, housing and living environment, public services and quality of society.

Key contributions

Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) has gathered harmonised and fully comparable data on the living conditions and quality of life of Europeans and people in candidate countries since 2003. The four waves of the survey to date provide comprehensive information on the evolution of quality of life of various socioeconomic groups.

Analysis of the third wave (2012) provides an overview of the impacts of the crisis at that time, as well as knowledge of trends in quality of life since 2003. The findings offer additional insights into particular aspects such as subjective well-being or social inequalities, and issues facing particular groups like young people or workers over 50.

Separate research projects, as well as analyses from the EQLS, have been the basis of Eurofound reports on a range of related issues, including early childhood education and care, inadequate housing and how partial retirement may help extend working lives.

Ongoing work

The fourth wave of the EQLS, carried out in 2016, builds on this work and generates additional knowledge on longer-term trends.  

Other topics addressed will include:

  • trust in people and institutions
  • social cohesion and well-being
  • access to services for young people
  • digitalisation in social services
  • care and education.