27 May 2020
Social or interpersonal trust concerns trust between individuals, while trust in institutions is defined as confidence in state organisations (parliament, government, the police or the courts) or non-state organisations (media, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), churches or corporations).Read more
Social or interpersonal trust concerns trust between individuals, while trust in institutions is defined as confidence in state organisations (parliament, government, the police or the courts) or non-state organisations (media, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), churches or corporations). Trust in people and institutions is a factor in determining quality of society, is a powerful indicator of well-being both at individual and societal level, and is a major public concern of our times. As society changes, tensions, participation, community involvement and the role of government all impact on levels of trust.Read less
New pan-EU survey highlights plummeting optimism, low trust levels, alongside rising fears of job loss and financial insecurity
Trust in public institutions is important at the best of times and is thus a prerequisite for implementing necessary policy reforRead more
Trust in public institutions is important at the best of times and is thus a prerequisite for implementing necessary policy reform. In terms of action that can facilitate trust in institutions, the EU takes measures in strengthening the rule of law, raising citizens’ awareness and fighting disinformation.
During the Great recession of 2008, trust in institutions declined sharply, but by 2016–2017 levels of trust and social cohesion have recovered overall in the EU, perceived social exclusion has declined and there has been an increase in active citizenship and civic engagement. Improving the quality of public services was found to be the most powerful driver of boosting trust in institutions.
Findings from the Eurobarometer survey show that trust in the EU has remained relatively stable since 2017. However, the COVID-19 pandemic could have an impact on this trend. As COVID-19 spreads far and wide, trust in government and each other has never been a more central issue. Maintaining trust in institutions during these challenging times will be vital in ensuring a coordinated, comprehensive and effective response to the pandemic, as well as in designing the future of the EU.
- European Commission: Standard Eurobarometer 92
- European Commission: Strengthening the rule of law
- European Commission: Fighting disinformation
Aspects of trust are covered across a range of Eurofound research, in its surveys and other research linked with improving living and working conditions in the EU.Read more
Aspects of trust are covered across a range of Eurofound research, in its surveys and other research linked with improving living and working conditions in the EU.
Trust and quality of life
Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines levels of trust among citizens in public institutions such as national governments, the legal system, the EU, the news media and the police. The latest survey, EQLS 2016, found that there is a general improvement in quality of society indicators, including an increased trust in national institutions. In particular, young people (18–24 years) registered the highest increase in trust in other people, possibly indicative of a new cohort less scarred by the economic crisis after 2008.
Societal change, social cohesion and trust
Using the EQLS data, Eurofound has looked at societal change and trust in institutions. A number of questions were considered in determining the quality of society. How do we build trust in our institutions? What drives trust? What is the relevance of insecurity?
Research based on the EQLS also examined European societies in terms of social cohesion, particularly social tensions, social exclusion, interpersonal trust and community engagement. It analysed the links between societal characteristics (quality of society) and well-being of different social groups, looking at how levels of societal tensions have changed in European societies over time (2003–2016).
- Publication: Societal change and trust in institutions
- Publication: Social cohesion and well-being in Europe
COVID-19 and the impact on trust
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe economic and social shock in living memory. It is having wide-ranging effects on people’s quality of life and work, including their perceptions of the society around them. On 9 April 2020, Eurofound launched an e-survey, Living, working and Covid-19, to capture the most immediate changes and their impact, with the aim of helping to shape the response to this crisis. Adapting EQLS questions, part of the survey focuses on people’s levels of trust in institutions, including the healthcare system.
The first results of the survey were published on 6 May 2020 and show a different picture to previous research:
- People across the EU are reporting very low levels of trust in the EU and in their national governments, particularly in several Member States with traditionally pro-EU sentiment such as France, Italy and Spain, raising fundamental questions about perception of the EU action during the crisis.
- Highest trust levels lie with healthcare systems in combating the COVID-19 crisis. Even countries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Belgium, Italy, Spain and France, are reporting trust in healthcare systems above the EU average and well ahead of trust in their governments, the media and the EU.
Explore the data by country, age and gender.
- Data: Living, working and COVID-19 data
- E-survey: Tell us how COVID-19 is impacting your life (open until 1 July 2020)
- Topic: COVID-19
Innovation, working conditions and trust
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) examines trust between management and employees in European companies. The research shows a trusting relationship between employee representation and management, in combination with direct employee participation, is associated with higher levels of performance and well-being and creates a positive environment for innovative action. Trust is also an important element of well-functioning workplace social dialogue to deliver win–win outcomes.
- Survey: European Company Surveys
- Publication: Innovative changes in European companies
- Forthcoming publication: European Company Survey 2019: Overview report
Looking at this from the working conditions perspective, the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) shows a positive association between different job quality indices and trust. It confirms that mutual trust between management and employees, as well as recognition and good cooperation, are important aspects of organisational management, resulting in positive outcomes both for the organisation and its workers.Read less
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (20)
- Ongoing work (3)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
New pan-EU survey highlights plummeting optimism, low trust levels, alongside rising fears of job loss and financial insecurityNews 07 May 2020
A selection of related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: Living, working and COVID-19 dataset
- Data: Quality of life and COVID-19
- Data: European Quality of Life Survey 2016 - Data visualisation – See, for example, questions on access to public services, trust and social tensions, participation in society and community
- Data: European Working Conditions Survey 2015 – Data visualisation
- Data: European Company Survey - Data visualisation
Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.