Well-being, work and financial situation in Europe
The European economy is starting to wake up again after suffering the consequences of the worldwide pandemic. However, it is far from over and the recovery is not going to be smooth.
In the space of just a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically transformed the lives of people around the globe. Apart from the devastating health consequences on people directly affected by the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has had major implications for the way people live and work, affecting their physical and mental well-being in a profound way.
To capture the immediate economic and social effects of this crisis, Eurofound launched a large-scale online survey across the European Union. Entitled Living, working and COVID-19, the aim of the survey is to investigate the impact on well-being, work and telework and on the financial situation of people living in Europe. It includes a range of questions relevant to people across various age groups and life situations.
The content to be read here is part of a report by Eurofound about living, working and COVID-19 and the impact on well-being, work and financials.
The full report by Eurofound can be read on >> eurofound.europa.eu
The first results show a Europe grappling to respond to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many respondents reporting high levels of loneliness coupled with low levels of optimism about their future. Overall, people are showing some decrease in their well-being. Respondents are also reporting a dramatic fall in trust in the EU and their national governments, with low levels reported across many countries. The survey findings also confirm an increase in telework and, for a growing number of respondents, a feeling of insecurity regarding their jobs with a dramatic decrease in working time. Finally, the survey paints a stark picture of people across the 27 EU Member States who have seen their economic situation worsen and are deeply concerned about their financial future.
Quality of life and COVID-19 Life satisfaction, happiness and optimism are below usual level respondents’ subjective well-being in April 2020 was relatively muted: in the EU overall, people rated their life-satisfaction on average at 6.3 and happiness at 6.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Both of these are below the ratings given in face-to-face general population surveys, such as the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), which in 2016 measured the EU average life satisfaction at 7.0 and happiness at 7.4. People aged 50 or over in the COVID-19 survey had somewhat higher satisfaction (6.4) and happiness (6.5) than young and middle age groups, which rated life satisfaction at 6.2 and 6.1 respectively, and happiness both at 6.3. People who were unemployed had significantly lower life satisfaction than the average at 4.7 points.
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is an agency of the European Union that focuses on managing research, gathering information, and communicating its findings. It was set up in 1975 by the European Council to help improve living and working conditions across Europe, and was one of the first bodies established to work on a specific subset of EU policy. It is headquartered in Ireland.
Eurofound provides information, advice and expertise on working conditions and sustainable work, industrial relations, labour market change and quality and life and public services, to support the EU institutions and bodies, Member States and Social Partners in shaping and implementing social and employment policies, as well as promoting social dialogue based on comparative information, research and analysis.
During the pandemic-related restrictions, the view was commonly expressed that telework would soon become a reality for most workers – the ‘new normal’. However, for it to be sustainable, the usual challenges – such as overtime work – that are related to ICT-enabled working ‘anytime, anywhere’ (teleworking) must be addressed. Regardless of the mode of work, around 30% of workers on average report worrying about work when not working – the highest rating in terms of the five dimensions of work-life conflict that were included in the e-survey from the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS). The top concern has changed compared to the 2015 EWCS when being too tired to do household jobs’ was the most commonly reported issue
Financial insecurity is most acute for those who have lost their jobs. Of the respondents who have lost their job permanently during the crisis, 90% reported that their household financial situation worsened, 44% have no savings and 35% have just enough savings to maintain their current standard of living for three months. These results highlight the importance of social protection for certain groups in the wake of the crisis. Given the limitations to utilizing social contacts and getting informal support during the period of physical distancing, these people are particularly dependent on the adequacy and effectiveness of social protection policies.
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