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Europeans broadly satisfied with their lives, but survey highlights concerns over the future of the economic and social situation

02/02/2010

Europeans are on average broadly satisfied with their personal situation, but less satisfied when it comes to the economy, public services and social policies in their country, according to an opinion survey released 2 February.

The Eurobarometer on the social climate in the EU also found large differences between countries, with people in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands generally most satisfied with their personal situation. The survey forms part of the European Commission's Social Situation Report, also released today, which examines social trends in Europe, this year focusing on housing.

According to the Eurobarometer survey, a majority of Europeans are satisfied with life in general, giving an average score of +3.2 points (on a scale of -10 to +10). But there are big differences between Member States: the highest level of satisfaction was reported in Denmark, (+8.0), with Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland also having high levels. The lowest levels of satisfaction were reported in Bulgaria (-1.9), followed by Hungary, Greece and Romania.

When it comes to public services, Europeans are on average quite dissatisfied with the way their public administrations are run (-1.2 points). In every country, apart from Luxembourg and Estonia, Europeans feel that this has worsened over the last five years and expect it to continue to get worse (in all countries except Luxembourg).

When asked about specific public policies, Europeans are broadly satisfied with healthcare provision (+1.3 points), with people in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg most satisfied (over +5 points) and those in Bulgaria, Greece and Romania least satisfied (-3 points or less).

Europeans were most dissatisfied with the way inequalities and poverty are addressed in their country (-2 points). Only respondents in Luxembourg and the Netherlands awarded a positive score, while respondents in Latvia and Hungary were the most strongly dissatisfied (-5 points or worse).

Housing

The European Commission's latest annual Social Situation Report shows that Europeans now spend more of their income on housing costs than they did ten years ago (almost 4 percentage points more), while mortgage debt has increased sharply across the EU.

On average, Europeans spend one-fifth of their disposable income on accommodation. Rent and mortgage payments only make up 30% of total housing costs in the EU while the other 70% pays for repairs, maintenance and fuel. Following housing privatisation, most people living in countries from the central and eastern EU Member States own their own homes, and charges for repairs, maintenance and fuel make up around 90% of total housing costs.

The report also looks at quality of housing and finds that many Europeans report living in sub-standard accommodation and that more people on low incomes report housing problems.

Social impacts of the crisis

While it is still too early to assess the full social impact of the crisis, the report investigates what lessons may be learned from the experience of past recessions. It shows that social expenditure has played a role in protecting those affected during recessions but that the likelihood that an unemployed person will receive income support varies across the EU.

Background

The Special Eurobarometer survey on the social climate is the first in a series of annual surveys to monitor European citizens' subjective well-being and was conducted in May-June 2009 among citizens in the 27 EU Member States. It asks people their opinions about their personal situation, the national economic and social situation, and their feelings about policies of their governments in various areas, including health care and pensions.

The Social Situation Report is an annual report by the European Commission that takes a closer look at long-term social trends in the EU in order to provide up-to-date, reliable and comprehensive information on the social situation. This year, it focuses on two key issues in public policy: housing (including ownership status and costs), and the possible effects of the recession including results from the Eurobarometer survey on social climate.