Quality of life and quality of society

17 December 2018

In addition to individual circumstances and conditions, the quality of society has a major impact on citizens’ well-being and quality of life. In recent years, Europeans have reported a declining trust in society and institutions, societal tensions, economic and social insecurity, as well as perceived inequalities and lack of fairness. With policymakers looking for effective means to improve the quality of life of Europeans and to address the situation of disadvantaged segments of society, a solid base of evidence on specific social groups is critical.

The European Commission’s Social Investment Package, launched in 2013, is the EU’s social policy response to the crisis in support of a fairer and more inclusive society. It urges Member States to increase social investment and to make better use of their social budgets in adapting to economic and demographic challenges, paying particular attention to active inclusion strategies. The Commission’s reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe, published in April 2017, also sets out possibilities on how to sustain current living standards and foster more unity within European societies.

Eurofound's work

Since 2003, Eurofound has been collecting data through its European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) every four years.

Key contributions

Eurofound looks at both objective and subjective aspects of quality of life. The third EQLS, carried out in 2012, examined the impacts of the crisis and trends over time since 2003, and identified new indicators for social progress. In particular, the research has explored how Europeans perceive the quality of their societies, looking at trust in people and institutions, and perceived tensions between social groups including rich and poor, managers and workers, ethnic and religious groups. Eurofound also provides knowledge on work–life balance issues for workers and carers, and the implications of care responsibilities for employment, work and quality of life.

Using sources besides the EQLS, the Agency has examined the social situation of specific groups, particularly young people and those over 50, and carried out research to assess innovative policy initiatives to support their contribution to society. Moreover, research has examined the differences in quality of life between urban and rural areas, looking at issues such as social exclusion, living conditions and trust in local government. Eurofound has also reported on trust in national and European political institutions and on civic engagement during the crisis.

Eurofound’s current research programme capitalises on new data from the fourth EQLS, bringing together both individual and societal dimensions, and subjective and objective aspects of well-being. This information enables Eurofound to present an overview of the key changes in well-being and living conditions since 2003, with a specific focus on generational differences with regard to quality of life. In particular, the analysis focuses on local-level factors of quality of life which have not been explored extensively in previous research on well-being, such as:

  • how communities are engaged
  • how services and amenities are organised
  • housing quality
  • safety of the local environment.

On quality of society, Eurofound will further explore social cohesion and social tensions. It will look at how trust in national institutions and in other people has developed, as well as social and economic insecurity and participation in society. Eurofound seeks to identify the policy relevance of these issues and establish policymakers’ information needs.

Ongoing work

Current work on quality of life draws from the fourth EQLS findings on a broad range of topics from happiness to work–life balance, health and care, deprivation and perceived social exclusion.

Just published: Fourth European Quality of Life Survey: Overview report (2017)

Further research topics will include:


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