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Europeans quite happy with their personal situation, but less satisfied with economic and social climate in their country.

Despite hard economic times, Europeans are generally satisfied with their lives and optimistic about their short-term prospects, an EU survey published today suggests.

But it also reveals that when they look how their country as a whole is doing, most find little to smile about.

Nearly 27 000 people were polled across 30 countries – the 27 EU countries and Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

The survey was conducted over three weeks in May and June, when Europe was struggling to pull itself out of the deepest recession in decades. The results form part of the commission’s 2009 report on social trends in Europe.

Respondents were asked to consider their wellbeing in terms of factors like their job, where they live and their household finances.

The degree of contentment varies widely from country to country. By and large, northerners and westerners are happier with their lot and more sanguine about their future than southerners and easterners.

The highest levels of personal satisfaction were recorded in Denmark, earning that country a score of 8 on a scale of -10 to 10. Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland also came up with high marks. Bulgaria came in last with -1.9, while the mood in Hungary, Greece and Romania was similarly gloomy.

Vladimir Špidla, commissioner for social affairs, called the results “comforting”. “Despite the difficult economic situation, most Europeans remain satisfied with their lives.”

Respondents also evaluated conditions in their country, including the economy, the job market, living costs, housing and public administration. In contrast with the high levels of satisfaction recorded for personal wellbeing, the survey found widespread discontent. Europeans not only believe the situation has deteriorated over the past five years – they expect it to get worse.

Europeans were also asked to share their views on key social policies like pensions and unemployment benefits. Here too the reviews were negative and the outlook bleak with one exception. There was broad, if weak, satisfaction with health care.


Special Eurobarometer survey on the social situation

Social situation report 2009

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