Being young in Europe today - family and society

Data extracted in March 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2018

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat flagship publication 'Being young in Europe today' (which can be consulted in order to get a layouted pdf version). It presents the situation of children and young people in families and society across the European Union (EU). Family structures in the EU Member States vary, reflecting cultural and normative differences across the EU. The general postponement of material and tenure independence by young people indicates a delayed transition to adulthood. This article also depicts the subjective wellbeing of young people and households with children as well as the social and political participation of young people in EU society.

The vast majority of the data used in this article is derived from Eurostat’s population statistics, and more specifically from a set of demography indicators, the EU labour force survey (LFS) and EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). However, in order to provide a global view of the main issues such as family composition, other data sources, for example, data from the United Nations were also used.

Main statistical findings

Family composition and household structure

The share of households with children is decreasing in the EU

Less than one third (30.7 %) of all households in the EU-28 had children in 2013 according to data from the EU labour force survey. Couples with children represented one in five (20.5 %) EU households, while single adults with children accounted for 4.3 % of the total number of households. Other types of households with children, for example, households where grandparents, parents and their children lived together, made up 5.8 % of all households.

Looking at developments since 2005, the share of EU-28 households with children decreased by more than 2 percentage points in only eight years (from 32.9 % in 2005 to 30.7 % in 2013), couples with children becoming relatively less frequent. The share of single adults with children was, nevertheless, higher in 2013 than in 2005 (rising from 4.0 % in 2005 to 4.3 % in 2013). Over the same period, the proportion of couples without children and the proportion of single adults without children rose from 24.0 % to 24.8 % and from 28.3 % to 31.7 % respectively.

Figure 1: Private households by household composition, EU-28, 2005 and 2013
(% of private households)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych)

Important variations in household composition between EU Member States

Figure 2 extends the analysis of household composition to the EU Member States, presenting data for 2013. Ireland recorded the highest share of couples with children (29.0 %), followed by Cyprus (27.7 %). These were also the only two EU Member States to have more than 40 % of their households with children (42.1 % and 40.7 % respectively). Ireland moreover registered a high proportion of single-parent households (6.8 %). Only three EU Member States, namely Denmark, the United Kingdom and Lithuania, recorded a higher proportion of households composed of single adults with children (8.7 %, 7.2 % and 7.1 % respectively).

By contrast, the share of households with children was at its lowest level in Germany (21.8 %), a share that was nearly half of the corresponding proportion in Ireland. Sweden and Austria followed Germany, with around one quarter (25–26 %) of all households with children. Looking at couples with children, Germany also recorded one of the smallest shares (15.0 %), again close to half of the corresponding proportion in Ireland. Nevertheless, the EU Member State with the lowest share of couples with children was Croatia (11.5 %). This very low proportion was counterbalanced by other type of households that contained children, for example, multigenerational households, which accounted for 14.0 % of all households in Croatia. The lowest proportion of single-parent households was also recorded in Croatia (1.4 %), while the same share was also registered in Finland. Romania and Greece were the only other EU Member States where households composed of single adults with children accounted for less than 2 % of the total number of households (both 1.9 %).

Figure 2: Private households by household composition, 2013
(% of private households)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych)

Single persons and couples without children constitute over 50 % of the total households in the developed world

Couples with children are becoming less common in many parts of the world, including the EU. They represented, in 2011, less than 30 % of the total number of households in Canada (29.4 %), the United States (28.6 %), Switzerland (26.7 %), Norway (22.2 %), the Russian Federation (15.9 %) and the EU (20.9 %) — see Figure 3. The traditional ‘nuclear family’, composed of a couple with children, was seen to be in decline in the EU as a higher proportion of people chose to live alone (31.4 %) or as couples without children (24.7 %). Indeed, among those countries presented in Figure 3, the EU-28 had one of the lowest shares of one-parent families (4.4 %), with the proportion of one-parent families being more than twice the EU average in Serbia (12.0 %), Russia (11.5 %) and Canada (10.3 %).

By contrast, two-parent families still constituted the most common type of household composition in some countries: for example, couples with children made up 57.3 % of households in Albania, while childless couples accounted for 17.2 %.

Figure 3: Household structure, selected countries, 2011
(% of private households)
Source: UNECE and Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych)

Transition to adulthood: young men leave the family home later than young women

The transition from childhood to adulthood is characterised by a number of crucial decisions / life choices, such as leaving the parental home to study or work, being materially independent, moving in with a partner or getting married, and the choice of whether or not to have children. However, the path to independence is not straightforward and young people face a range of challenges which may result in some of them returning to the parental home.

Among others, the decision of young people to leave the parental home can be affected by: whether or not they are in a relationship, whether or not they are studying full-time, their level of financial (in)dependence, labour market conditions, living costs and the cost of housing. Figure 4 indicates that in 2013, on average across the whole of the EU, young people were not inclined to leave the parental home until the age of 27 for men and 25 for women. Between 2000 and 2013, there is a slight increase in the average age at which young people leave the parental home. The average age for leaving the parental home increased by 0.7 years for boys (from 26.5 to 27.2 years old) and also by 0.7 years for girls (from 24.3 to 25.0 years old) between 2000 and 2013.

Figure 4: Estimated mean age of leaving the parental household, by sex, EU-28, 2000–13 (1)
(years)
Source: Eurostat (yth_demo_030)

In northern EU Member States, young people leave home in their early twenties while in southern and eastern EU Member States they tend to leave home in their early thirties

There are significant differences between EU Member States regarding the norms that apply to co-residence between the generations (for example, parents living with their adult children). Figure 5 shows that there are substantial disparities between on the one hand, southern and eastern EU Member States — where multi-generation households were a more common phenomenon — and northern and western Member States, where children were more prone to leave the family to live on their own (or with others).

In Croatia, Slovakia, Malta and Italy, the mean age of leaving the parental home was 30 or above in 2013. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland followed with a mean age that was higher than 28. By contrast, young people in Sweden, Denmark and Finland left the parental home, on average, before the age of 23. The Netherlands and France both recorded a mean age of 24 for ‘flying the family nest’.

Figure 5: Estimated mean age of leaving the parental household, by sex, 2013 (1)
(years)
Source: Eurostat (yth_demo_030)

Young women moved out of the parental home earlier than young men, although there were considerable variations observed between EU Member States. In 2013, young women in Sweden left the parental home, on average, before the age of 20, while women also left the parental home at a relatively young age (20–21 years) in Denmark and Finland. These figures could be contrasted with the situation in Croatia, where the average age for women leaving the parental home was nearly 30 years, while young women in Slovakia, Malta and Italy were also relatively old when leaving the parental home (more than 29 years).

The results for young men were very similar, with the lowest average age for leaving the parental home recorded in Sweden (20 years old), Denmark (22) and Finland (23) and the highest in Croatia (33 years old), Slovakia, Malta and Italy (all three 31 years), Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal and Spain (all six 30 years).

The largest gender gaps between the average ages of women and men leaving the parental home were observed in Bulgaria and Romania (four years difference), followed by Croatia (three years difference). By contrast, the smallest gender gaps were recorded for Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg (a difference of one year or less between the sexes).

Men under the age of 30 tended not to fly the nest in many of the southern EU Member States

At an EU level, provisional figures show that 71.9 % of young men aged 20–24 lived with their parents in 2013, while the corresponding share was 60.0 % for young women of the same age (Figure 6). Looking at the age group 25–29 years, the proportion of young men living in the parental home decreased to 43.0 % and the share for young women shrank to 28.1%.

A high proportion of young men aged 25–29 still lived in their parent’s home in Croatia (83.8 %), Slovakia (77.7 %), Malta (74.8 %), Italy and Greece (both 72.9 %). By contrast, young men in Sweden, Denmark and Finland were more likely to leave the parental home in search of independence (as only 2.5 %, 5.2 % and 10.2 % of young men aged 25–29 years were still living with their parents in 2013). Focusing on Sweden, which recorded the lowest shares of young people living with their parents, only 16.8 % of young women aged 20–24 still lived in their parent’s home, while the corresponding share for young men of the same age was 21.8 %. In Denmark and Finland the pattern was similar, with 21.2 % and 21.7 % of young women aged 20–24 years still living with their parents, while the corresponding rates for young men of the same age were 33.5 % and 40.3 % respectively.

Figure 6: Young people (aged 20–29) living in the parental household, by age group and sex, 2013 (1)
(% of young people)
Source: Eurostat (yth_demo_050)

Important gender discrepancies on age of first marriage

The age of first marriage has considerably increased over the two last decades in all of the EU Member States (Figure 7). A simple average based on those EU Member States for which national data are available in 2012 suggests that the average age for women to be wed for the first time was 29 years old, while that for young men was 32 years old. Back in 1992 the average age of first marriage had been 25 years for young women and 28 years for young men. As such, the average age for getting married a first time increased by four years for both men and women between 1992 and 2012.

Despite these delays before deciding to get married, the gender gap in the age of first marriage remained relatively unchanged in most of the EU Member States. In 2012, it was generally about three years difference between the sexes, with the largest gaps observed in Romania (3.8 years), Greece and Bulgaria (both 3.3 years).

Figure 7: Mean age at first marriage, by sex, 1992, 2002 and 2012
(years)
Source: Eurostat (demo_nind)

Poland was the EU Member State that reported the youngest average age for women getting married the first time (26.3 years old in 2012). At the other end of the range was Sweden, where the average age of women getting married for the first time was 33.3 years old. The pattern across EU Member States for men was similar to that observed for women, as Poland had the youngest average age for men getting married the first time (28.7 years old) and Sweden the oldest (35.6 years old).

New patterns in family units

Getting married is not the only way for partners to live together: indeed, living in consensual union a growing phenomenon across the EU, whether it is with or without a legal basis.

According to the EU-SILC, in 2013 some 12.2 % of young people aged 16–29 years in the EU-28 were living in a consensual union without a legal basis, while 10.7 % of the same age group were living as married couples or in consensual union with a legal basis. Although the difference in relative shares was not substantial at an EU level, different laws and customs across the EU Member States have affected how quickly or otherwise alternative types of family units have become established.

Northern EU Member States have higher shares of young people living in a consensual union without legal basis (30.7 % in Finland, 21.2 % in Sweden, 20.9 % in Denmark), as did France (24.6 %), Estonia (21.8 %) and the United Kingdom (20.3 %). By contrast, in Mediterranean, central and eastern EU Member States (for example, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Romania and Poland) a considerably higher proportion of young people lived together in partnerships that had a legal basis (whether or not this was marriage). Hungary was atypical, insofar as the proportion of young people living together in a consensual union without a legal basis was almost twice as high as the share of those living in partnerships with a legal basis (11.1 % compared with 5.8 %).

Figure 8: Young people (aged 16–29) who are married or in a consensual union (with or without legal basis), 2013
(% of young people)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

Births outside of marriage are on the increase in the EU

The proportion of live births outside marriage increased across the EU over recent decades, reflecting the changing patterns of family structures. More and more couples decide to become parents without getting married and those that do marry tend to do so at a later age. The share of children born outside of marriage rose from 20 % in the early 1990s to reach almost 30 % by 2002, before continuing to increase during the most recent decade for which data are available, reaching almost 40 % by 2011 (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Live births outside marriage, 1992, 2002 and 2012
(% of live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_find)

In 15 of the EU Member States the share of births outside marriage was above the EU average: the highest shares in 2012 were recorded in Estonia (58.4 %), Slovenia (57.6 %), Bulgaria (57.4 %), Sweden (54.5 %), Belgium (52.3 %) and Denmark (50.6 %), while there was also a high share in France (55.8 % in 2011). By contrast, Greece (7.6 %), Croatia (15.4 %) and Cyprus (18.6 %) recorded the lowest proportions of live births outside of marriage in 2012.

Between 1992 and 2012, the proportion of births outside of marriage grew in all EU Member States. Bulgaria (up 38.9 percentage points), Belgium (38.7 percentage points), the Netherlands (34.2 percentage points) and the Czech Republic (32.7 percentage points) recorded the largest increases, while Denmark (up 4.2 percentage points), Sweden and Greece (both 5.0 percentage points) registered the smallest gains.


In 2012, more than half of all births occurred outside of marriage in Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark; the same was true for France in 2011.
© Fotolia

Highest number of live births during adolescence and early youth in Bulgaria and Romania

Complementing the analysis of fertility rates and of the mean age of mother’s when having their first child (as presented in the article on demographic trends from this publication), Figure 10 shows the fertility rates of women aged less than 30, by five-year age groups. At an EU level, the fertility of young women was very low among those aged 10–24 years, at 60.9 live births per 1 000 women in 2012. For girls aged 10–14 years, fertility rates were considerably lower, at 0.2 live births per 1 000 girls, in other words, there were, on average, just two live births for every 10 000 girls of this age, while the corresponding rate for girls / women aged 15–19 years was 12.6 live births per 1 000 girls / women.

Figure 10: Fertility rates for women aged less than 30, by age group, 2012
(live births / 1 000 women)
Source: Eurostat (demo_frate)

There were considerable differences across EU Member States as regards fertility rates during adolescence and early youth; these differences may reflect, among others, sex education at school and attitudes towards discussing these matters within families. For example, in 2012 the fertility rate for girls below the age of 20 was lower in France than the EU-28 average (10.7 live births per 1 000 girls), while it subsequently increased above the EU-28 average for young women aged 20–24 (59.9 live births per 1 000 young women) and peaked at 130.9 live births per 1 000 women among those aged 24–29 years, which was the highest rate for any of the EU Member States. Besides France, those EU Member States with the highest fertility rates for women aged 25–29 included Belgium and Lithuania (124.7 and 117.0 live births per 1 000 women respectively).

By contrast, the fertility rate for girls / women under the age of 20 was relatively high in Bulgaria and Romania (44.1 and 39.0 live births per 1 000 girls / women aged 10–19 years) and these two countries continued to record the highest fertility rates in the EU among women aged 20–24 years (at over 70 live births per 1 000 young women). Slovakia, Latvia, the United Kingdom and Hungary recorded the highest fertility rates for the girls / women aged 15–19 years (at 21.6, 20.3, 19.7 and 19.2 births per 1 000 girls / women respectively).

The number of abortions has gone down significantly

The ability of families to plan as to if and when they want to have children is fundamental. Yet, family planning remains a neglected public health priority [1] and unmet needs for contraception and advice lead to unintended pregnancies which may impact upon lives and wellbeing.

In 2012, there were about 642 000 legally induced abortions in the 17 EU Member States for which data are available. This figure marks a reduction of 41 % when compared with the 1.1 million abortions that were registered in 2002.

While most pregnancy terminations in 2002 and 2012 concerned young women aged under 30, the most recent data suggests that there has been a decrease in abortions performed on girls aged under 20. For instance, in the United Kingdom in 2002 more than 21 % of all legal abortions concerned teenagers (less than 20 years old), a share that had been reduced to 17.1 % by 2012. The same development was recorded in Finland, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden, Spain, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Belgium and Bulgaria (Figures 11a and 11b).

Figure 11a: Legally induced abortions among young women, by age group, 2012 (1)
(% of legally induced abortions)
Source: Eurostat (demo_fabort)
Figure 11b: Legally induced abortions among young women, by age group, 2002 (1)
(% of legally induced abortions)
Source: Eurostat (demo_fabort)

Foreign-born children and young people in the EU

Citizens from EU Member States have the freedom of movement within the EU’s internal borders. Being free to move from one European country to another may help promote intercultural understanding and contribute to the creation of a common European identity. Furthermore, this freedom allows EU citizens to work, study and reside in another Member State.

Migration policies within the EU are increasingly concerned with attracting particular migrant profiles, often in an attempt to alleviate specific skills shortages. Selection can be carried out on the basis of language proficiency, work experience, education and age. International immigration, especially of young people, may be used as a tool to solve specific labour market shortages but also to have a positive impact on the age structure of the destination country. However, migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing pattern of population ageing that is being experienced in many parts of the EU.

Migration is influenced by a combination of economic, political and social factors, global events, linguistic and / or historical ties, which may have a direct impact on the size and composition of the EU’s foreign population.

Nearly one in five children and two in five young people in Luxembourg were born outside the country

Looking at the population of children aged less than 15, Luxembourg was the EU Member State where the share of foreign-born children was highest in 2013, with 13.7 % of all children born in an EU-27 Member State (no data for Croatia) and 5.5 % of all children born in a non-member country, resulting in almost one fifth (19.2 %) of children being born outside the national territory (Figure 12). Cyprus and Ireland had the next highest shares of foreign-born children, with 7.3 % and 5.5 % of children born in another EU Member State, and 3.7 % and 3.8 % in a non-member country, giving a total of around one tenth (10.9 % and 9.3 %) of all children being foreign-born. Greece recorded the highest share of children born outside of the EU (5.9 %), while its share of children born in another EU Member State was relatively low (1.3 %). By contrast, the Czech Republic and Poland recorded the lowest shares for children being born outside of their national territory (about 1.0 % of the total).

Figure 12: Foreign-born children (aged 0–14), 2013 (1)
(% of all children aged 0–14)
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)

Similarly, the highest share of young people (those aged 15–29) born in a foreign country was also recorded in Luxembourg (39.3 %), followed by Cyprus and Ireland (where 28.5 % and 21.8 % respectively of all persons aged 15–29 were born abroad). Figure 13 shows that the majority of these foreign-born young people were born in other EU Member States. The five EU Member States with the highest proportions of non-EU foreign-born young people were registered in Spain (13.3 %), Cyprus and Sweden (both 13.2 %), Luxembourg (11.8 %) and Greece (11.2 %).

On the other hand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia had the lowest shares of young foreign-born persons, as these accounted for approximately 1 % of the total population of those aged 15–29.

Figure 13: Foreign-born young people (aged 15–29), 2013 (1)
(% of all youths aged 15–29)
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)

Figure 14 focuses on the age structure of the foreign-born population within each EU Member State and particularly the share of children and young people (aged 15–29) compared with the total foreign-born population.

In 2013, Romania had the highest share of children and young people in its foreign-born population, as those aged less than 30 accounted for more than half (54.3 %) of the total foreign-born population. Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Denmark, Greece, the United Kingdom and Spain followed with shares for children and young people that were higher than 30 % of the total foreign-born population. Generally speaking, at least one fifth of the foreign-born population of the EU Member States consisted of children and young people. The only exceptions to this rule were the three Baltic Member States (Latvia, 4.4 %; Estonia, 5.8 %; Lithuania, 9.6 %), Poland (16.8 %), Slovenia (16.9 %) and Germany (19.6 %).

Figure 14: Share of foreign-born children and young people in the total number of foreign-born persons, 2013 (1)
(% of foreign-born population)
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)

In most EU Member States, at least one fifth of the foreign-born population was composed of children and young people.
© Fotolia

Subjective wellbeing

The level of integration of people in the society can be reflected through subjective measures, such as overall life satisfaction or the degree of happiness. A 2013 EU-SILC ad-hoc module covered these aspects of subjective wellbeing, and provides a range of interesting results for young people and EU households with children.

Young people tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction

Life satisfaction can be measured on an 11-point scale which ranges from 0 (‘not satisfied at all’) to 10 (‘fully satisfied’). In order to aid interpretation and to facilitate analyses, answers were grouped into low, medium and high satisfaction, based on the following thresholds: scores of 0–5 were classified as a ‘low’ level of satisfaction, 6–8 as ‘medium’ levels of satisfaction, and 9 and 10 as ‘high’ levels of satisfaction.

As can be seen in Figure 15, life satisfaction in 2013 was highest in the EU-28 among the youngest age group, as 29.7 % of young people aged 16–24 reported that they were highly satisfied with life (scores of 9 or 10); this high share pushed up the average level of satisfaction among people aged 16–24 to 7.6 (on a scale of 0–10).

Figure 15: Life satisfaction, by age group, EU-28, 2013
(left-hand axis: % share of the population by satisfaction level; right-hand axis: mean rating)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

Generally, life satisfaction within the EU population decreased as a function of age, with the exception of those aged 65–74 (the period in life when most people take their retirement), where satisfaction levels were slightly higher than for those aged between 50 and 64 (7.0 versus 6.9).

In most EU Member States, the youngest age group reported the highest overall scores for life satisfaction, exceptions being Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway where people aged 65 and above were more satisfied than the young.

Life satisfaction is higher among couples with children

Figure 16 shows that life satisfaction for people living alone in the EU was below the average level for couples (with and without children). Two adults living with children reported the highest levels for life satisfaction (7.4). The lowest level of life satisfaction, on the other hand, was recorded for single-person households younger than 65 and for lone parent households (both 6.6).

Single, elderly females (aged 65 and above) most frequently reported a low level of life satisfaction; almost one third (29.4 %) of this sub-population gave their life satisfaction a score of 0–5. A similar share (29.2 %) of lone parent households had a low level of life satisfaction. By contrast, some 28.0 % of people living in a couple with three or more dependent children reported a high level of life satisfaction, which could be contrasted with only 15.3 % of this sub-population which stated they had a low level of life satisfaction.

Figure 16: Life satisfaction, by household type, EU-28, 2013
(left-hand axis: % share of the population by satisfaction level; right-hand axis: mean rating)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

Similar patterns for meaning of life and happiness

The meaning of life is measured here as a feeling that one’s life has a sense and purpose. Results for this subjective indicator show an almost identical pattern to those for life satisfaction, with the difference, however, that the meaning of life was consistently rated at a higher level than life satisfaction in the EU; in other words, people were generally were more positive regarding the meaning of life (Figure 17).

Figure 17: Meaning of life, by age group, EU-28, 2013
(left-hand axis: % share of the population by satisfaction level; right-hand axis: mean rating)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

In EU-SILC, happiness is measured by the following question: ‘How much of the time over the past four weeks have you been happy?’ Although this question was asked on a verbal five-point scale and can therefore not be directly compared with results for life satisfaction, there were similar patterns regarding differences between various age groups and types of household.

As can be seen in Figure 18, happiness (as for life satisfaction and the meaning of life) was highest in the EU among the youngest age group (16–24 years), with 71.5 % of this sub-population reporting to have been happy all or most of the time over the four weeks prior to the survey. Happiness then decreased as a function of age through to those aged 50–64, before rising slightly post-retirement (those aged 65–74) and then subsequently falling to its lowest level for those aged 75 or more, where more than one sixth (17.9 %) of respondents cited that they were ‘happy little or none of the time’.

Figure 18: Frequency of being happy during the four weeks prior to the survey, by age group, EU-28, 2013
(% share of population for each age group)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

Figure 19 illustrates that generally two adult households (in many cases couples) were happier than people living on their own and that households with children were the happiest (with the exception of single parents who reported rather low happiness levels). Two thirds (66.8 %) of people living in households with two adults and three children and 65.8 % of households with two adults and one or two children were happy all or most of the time. At the other end of the scale, women aged 65 and above living alone were the most unhappy group, as just over one fifth (20.9 %) of this sub-population said that they were ‘happy little or none of the time’; they were followed by men aged 65 and above (19.0 %) and women under the age of 65 living in single-person households (18.8 %).

Figure 19: Frequency of being happy during the four weeks prior to the survey, by household type, EU-28, 2013
(% share of population for each household type)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)

Young people’s participation in society

Social and political participation of young people is considered one means of encouraging a more inclusive and democratic society. The active participation of young people in decisions and actions at local and regional level enhances their capacity to influence decision-making and allows them to contribute to building a better society.

Taking active part in democracy

The results of Flash Eurobarometer 375, titled ‘European youth: participation in democratic life’, which was conducted in 2013, indicate that over half (56 %) of all people aged 15–30 had voted in an election during the previous three years, while 44 % had not voted, either out of choice (21 %) or because they had not yet reached the legal voting age (23 %).

Figure 20 shows that voting among young people was particularly high in Malta (76 %), Belgium (73 %) and Italy (71 %). By contrast, in seven EU Member States, less than half of all respondents aged 15–30 had voted. In the United Kingdom and Hungary, fewer than two out of every five (38 % and 39 % respectively) young people that had been surveyed declared that they had voted in the previous three years, while in Estonia, Lithuania, Portugal, Luxembourg and Sweden less than half of the young people surveyed had voted (shares within the range of 44 % to 49 %). The fact that voting is compulsory in some EU countries could have an influence on the results, as could the frequency with which some countries vote and the last time that there was a general election or local elections prior to the survey being conducted.

Figure 20: Youth (aged 15–29) participation in political elections, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375, 2013

Only 19 % of the young people surveyed in the EU said they would consider standing as a candidate in an election, while an overwhelming majority (79 %) said they would not consider such an option (Figure 21). Within the 19 % who were considering the idea, only 5 % said that they would certainly stand, while 14 % replied that they would probably do so. There were however considerable variations between EU Member States: the highest proportions of young people who would consider standing in an election as a candidate were found in Sweden (29 %), Latvia (27 %) and Romania (24 %), whereas at the other end of the range, just 8 % of respondents in Hungary said that they would consider standing for election, a share that rose to 10 % in Malta and 12 % in Greece.

Figure 21: Youth (aged 15–29) intentions regarding the possibility of standing as a candidate in a political election, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375, 2013

Participating in organised activities can potential impact young people and stoke their interest in politics or elections (Figure 22). Young respondents in the EU who participated in at least one organised activity were more likely to consider standing as a candidate in a political election at some point in their life (23 % versus 14 % for those who had not participate).

The results from Flash Eurobarometer 375 indicate that, despite a majority of respondents having participated in organised activities, there remained a considerable proportion that had never taken part in such an activity (44 %).

The most popular organised activities in which young people participated were those linked to sports clubs. Over one third (35 %) of respondents across the EU reported having participated in sports club activities within the past year, while the next most frequent activity was being involved in a youth club, leisure-time club or any kind of youth organisation (22 %). Participation rates for young people involved in local organisations aiming to improve the local community were lower (at 15 %), followed by those active in cultural organisations (14 %) and non-governmental organisations (12 %). Other types of organisation, such as those promoting human rights or global development (8 %), organisations on climate change and environmental issues (7 %), as well as political organisations or political parties (5 %) were less popular.

Figure 22: Youth (aged 15–29) participation in various organisations, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375, 2013

Figure 23 shows that young men were more likely to participate in any type of organisation than young women - 49 % of young women stated that they had not participated in any organisation during the year prior to the survey.

Figure 23: Youth (aged 15–29) participation in various organisations, by sex, EU-27, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375, 2013

Sports and physical activity — a sound mind in a healthy body

A 2013 Special Eurobarometer on ‘Sport and physical activity’ confirmed that sports clubs were the most popular type of organisation that young people joined. According to this relatively recent survey, only 21 % of young people in the EU aged 15 to 24 were members of a sports club; although an additional 6 % of this age group were members of cultural clubs that included physical activities. The proportion of people aged 25 to 39 who were members of a sports club fell to 12 %. By contrast, a majority of young people were not members of any type of club: 58 % of those aged 15–24 and 70 % of those aged 25–39.

Figure 24: Young people's membership of sports clubs or other activity centres, EU-28, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013

However, it would appear that a higher proportion of young people practice sports and physical activities more informally. As illustrated in Figures 25 and 26, the majority (64 %) of young people exercise and play sports regularly or with some regularity, mostly outdoors in parks, at home, or on the way between home and school or home and work.

Figure 25: Young people's frequency of exercising or playing sports, EU-28, 2013 (1)
(%)
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013
Figure 26: Places where young people engage in physical activity, EU-28, 2013 (1)
(% of respondents who engage in some form of sport or physical activity)
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013

Generally, young men in the EU exercise (play sports or engage in other physical activity) more than young women. This disparity is particularly striking among those aged 15–24, where boys / young men tend to regularly exercise or play sports considerably more than girls / young women (74 % versus 55 %).

When questioned about their personal motivations for deciding whether or not to engage in sport or physical activity, individual respondents cited improving their health as the most common reason for engaging in sport or physical activity. Other popular reasons cited by young people included improving their physical appearance (38 %) and having fun (43 %).

Data sources and availability

The data used in this article are primarily derived from demography data that is collected by Eurostat on a range of issues related to population developments, household structure, non-national population stocks, marriages and fertility. Data are collected on an annual basis and are supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities of the EU Member States.

In addition, the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS) covers a range of statistics on number, characteristics and typologies of households. Under the specific topic ‘Family composition and household structure', the EU-LFS presents statistics on household composition, the number and size of households, as well as on the estimated age that young people leave the parental home. The reader should bear in mind that the survey covers only citizens living in private households and excludes those in collective or institutional households. In order to provide a worldwide comparison for household structures, data from the UNECE database have also been utilised.

Figures on consensual union (with or without a legal basis) are derived from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). The 2013 ad-hoc EU-SILC module on subjective well-being provided data on life satisfaction, the meaning of life and happiness.

Data from Eurobarometer surveys have been used to depict the situation concerning social and political participation by young people. Eurobarometer surveys are opinion surveys which address a wide range of topics, for example: EU enlargement, the social situation, health, culture, information technology, the environment, the euro, or defense issues.

Context

EU policies related to migration and the migrant population

In May 2013, the European Commission published the ‘EU Citizenship Report 2013’ (COM(2013) 269 final ). The report noted that EU citizenship brings new rights and opportunities. Moving and living freely within the EU is the right most closely associated with EU citizenship. Given modern technology and the fact that it is now easier to travel, freedom of movement allows Europeans to expand their horizons beyond national borders, to leave their country for shorter or longer periods, to come and go between EU countries to work, study and train, to travel for business or for leisure, or to shop across borders. Free movement potentially increases social and cultural interactions within the EU and closer bonds between EU citizens. In addition, it may generate mutual economic benefits for businesses and consumers, including those who remain at home, as internal obstacles are steadily removed.

EU policies targeting subjective well-being

Measuring well-being has an inherent appeal: it is arguably the ultimate aim of all EU policies, and the common thread that runs through them all. Promoting the well-being of people in Europe is one of the principal aims of the European Union, as set forth by the Treaty on European Union. Today, in the European Union a broad range of outcomes is considered when evaluating the objectives of social and economic policy including subjective measures of quality of life. Many EU bodies but also Member States themselves report on subjective well-being and publish associated reports going beyond GDP as the overall measure of societal performance.

Well-being began to appear more explicitly at the EU policy agenda in 2006 when the Council of the European Union cited the well-being of present and future generations in its European Sustainable Development Strategy as its central goal. Soon after that the limits of GDP as a measure of well-being were more and more discussed at the international level flowing into the “Beyond GDP” initiative followed by a Conference in the European Parliament in 2007. In 2009 the European Commission published its Communication on “GDP and beyond – measuring progress in a changing world” concluding that EU policies will be ultimately judged on the question if they successfully delivered social, economic and environmental goals. In the same year, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz-Commission) published its Report. The so called Stiglitz Report was also the basis for the work of the ESS (European Statistical System) Sponsorship Group on Measuring Progress, Well-being and Sustainable Development which published its report in 2011.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Share of live births outside marriage (tps00018)
Total fertility rate (tsdde220)

Database

LFS series - Specific topics (lfst)
Youth population (yth_demo)
Marriage indicators (demo_nind)
Fertility indicators (demo_find)
Fertility rates by age (demo_frate)
Legally induced abortions by mother's age (demo_fabort)
Population on 1 January by five year age group, sex and country of birth (migr_pop3ctb)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links

Notes

  1. Cf. ‘Choices and planning. Entre Nous No. 79’, World Health Organization (see http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/sexual-and-reproductive-health/publications/entre-nous/entre-nous/choices-and-planning.-entre-nous-no.-79).